Double star

Astronomers have mistakenly reported observations of a double star in place of J 900 and a faint star in the constellation of Gemini.
Artist's impression of the discs around the young stars HK Tauri A and B.

Pair of stars that appear close to each other as viewed from Earth, especially with the aid of optical telescopes.

- Double star
Astronomers have mistakenly reported observations of a double star in place of J 900 and a faint star in the constellation of Gemini.

24 related topics

Alpha

Binary system of two stars

Binary star

System of two stars that are gravitationally bound to and in orbit around each other.

System of two stars that are gravitationally bound to and in orbit around each other.

Binary system of two stars
Edge-on disc of gas and dust present around the binary star system HD 106906
Algol B orbits Algol A. This animation was assembled from 55 images of the CHARA interferometer in the near-infrared H-band, sorted according to orbital phase.
Artist's conception of a cataclysmic variable system
Artist's impression of the binary star system AR Scorpii
Artist rendering of plasma ejections from V Hydrae
Artist's impression of the sight from a (hypothetical) moon of planet HD 188753 Ab (upper left), which orbits a triple star system. The brightest companion is just below the horizon.
Schematic of a binary star system with one planet on an S-type orbit and one on a P-type orbit
The two visibly distinguishable components of Albireo
Luhman 16, the third closest star system, contains two brown dwarfs.
Planet Lost in the Glare of Binary Stars (illustration)

The more general term double star is used for pairs of stars which are seen to be close together in the sky.

Star system named DI Cha. While only two stars are apparent, it is actually a quadruple system containing two sets of binary stars.

Star system

Small number of stars that orbit each other, bound by gravitational attraction.

Small number of stars that orbit each other, bound by gravitational attraction.

Star system named DI Cha. While only two stars are apparent, it is actually a quadruple system containing two sets of binary stars.
Orbits of the HR 6819 hierarchical triple star system: an inner binary with one star (orbit in blue) and a black hole (orbit in red), encircled by another star in a wider orbit (also in blue).
Subsystem notation in Tokovinin's Multiple Star Catalogue
Sirius A (center), with its white dwarf companion, Sirius B (lower left) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
HD 98800 is a quadruple star system located in the TW Hydrae association.

A star system of two stars is known as a binary star, binary star system or physical double star.

Alpha Centauri is the brightest object in the constellation of Centaurus (top left).

Alpha Centauri

For other uses, see Alpha Centauri (disambiguation).

For other uses, see Alpha Centauri (disambiguation).

Alpha Centauri is the brightest object in the constellation of Centaurus (top left).
Apparent and true orbits of Alpha Centauri. The A component is held stationary, and the relative orbital motion of the B component is shown. The apparent orbit (thin ellipse) is the shape of the orbit as seen by an observer on Earth. The true orbit is the shape of the orbit viewed perpendicular to the plane of the orbital motion. According to the radial velocity versus time, the radial separation of A and B along the line of sight had reached a maximum in 2007, with B being further from Earth than A. The orbit is divided here into 80 points: each step refers to a timestep of approx. 0.99888 years or 364.84 days.
The relative sizes and colours of stars in the Alpha Centauri system, compared to the Sun
Relative positions of Sun, Alpha Centauri AB and Proxima Centauri. Grey dot is projection of Proxima Centauri, located at the same distance as Alpha Centauri AB.
The two bright stars at the lower right are Alpha (right) and Beta Centauri (left, above antenna). A line drawn through them points to the four bright stars of the Southern Cross, just to the right of the dome of the Danish 1.54 m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Alpha Centauri AB taken in daylight by holding a Canon Powershot S100 in line with the eyepiece of a 110-mm refractor. The photo is one of the best frames of a video. The double star is clearly visible.
View of Alpha Centauri from the Digitized Sky Survey-2
Alpha Centauri A is of the same stellar type G2 as the Sun, while Alpha Centauri B is a K1-type star.
Closest stars to the Sun
Distances of the nearest stars from 20,000 years ago until 80,000 years in the future
Animation showing motion of Alpha Centauri through the sky. (The other stars are held fixed for didactic reasons) "Oggi" means today. "Anni" means years.
The discovery image of Alpha Centauri's candidate Neptunian planet, marked here as "C1".
Looking towards the sky around Orion from Alpha Centauri with Sirius near Betelgeuse, Procyon in Gemini, and the Sun in Cassiopeia generated by Celestia.
Simulated night-sky image with a "W" of stars from Cassiopeia connected by lines, and the Sun, labeled "Sol", as it would appear to the left of the "W"
The Very Large Telescope and Alpha Centauri

For example, in about 6,200 AD, α Centauri's true motion will cause an extremely rare first-magnitude stellar conjunction with Beta Centauri, forming a brilliant optical double star in the southern sky.

The Big Dipper's bowl and part of the handle photographed from the International Space Station. Mizar and Alcor are at the upper right.

Mizar

Second-magnitude star in the handle of the Big Dipper asterism in the constellation of Ursa Major.

Second-magnitude star in the handle of the Big Dipper asterism in the constellation of Ursa Major.

The Big Dipper's bowl and part of the handle photographed from the International Space Station. Mizar and Alcor are at the upper right.
The multiple star system of Mizar (the double star on the right) and Alcor (left). The unrelated, fainter star Sidus Ludovicianum can be seen lower down.
Radial velocity curves for the two almost identical components

It forms a well-known naked eye double star with the fainter star Alcor, and is itself a quadruple star system.

Detail of Bayer's chart for Orion showing the belt stars and Orion Nebula region, with both Greek and Latin letter labels visible

Bayer designation

Stellar designation in which a specific star is identified by a Greek or Latin letter followed by the genitive form of its parent constellation's Latin name.

Stellar designation in which a specific star is identified by a Greek or Latin letter followed by the genitive form of its parent constellation's Latin name.

Detail of Bayer's chart for Orion showing the belt stars and Orion Nebula region, with both Greek and Latin letter labels visible
Orion constellation map

Usually these are double stars (mostly optical doubles rather than true binary stars), but there are some exceptions such as the chain of stars π1, π2, π3, π4, π5 and π6 Orionis.

Relation between proper motion and velocity components of an object. A year ago the object was d units of distance from the Sun, and its light moved in a year by angle μ radian/s. If there has been no distortion by gravitational lensing or otherwise then μ = is the distance (usually expressed as annual velocity) transverse (tangential or perpendicular) to line of sight from the Sun. The angle is shaded light blue from the sun to the object's start point and its year later position as if it had no radial velocity. In this diagram the radial velocity happens to be one of the sun and object parting, so is positive.

Proper motion

Astrometric measure of the observed changes in the apparent places of stars or other celestial objects in the sky, as seen from the center of mass of the Solar System, compared to the abstract background of the more distant stars.

Astrometric measure of the observed changes in the apparent places of stars or other celestial objects in the sky, as seen from the center of mass of the Solar System, compared to the abstract background of the more distant stars.

Relation between proper motion and velocity components of an object. A year ago the object was d units of distance from the Sun, and its light moved in a year by angle μ radian/s. If there has been no distortion by gravitational lensing or otherwise then μ = is the distance (usually expressed as annual velocity) transverse (tangential or perpendicular) to line of sight from the Sun. The angle is shaded light blue from the sun to the object's start point and its year later position as if it had no radial velocity. In this diagram the radial velocity happens to be one of the sun and object parting, so is positive.
The celestial north and south poles are above/below CNP, CSP; the origin of all 24 hours of Right Ascension (the measure of absolute celestial east–west position), the March equinox (center of the sun's position then) at the J2000 epoch, is vector V. In red the diagram adds the components of proper motion across the celestial sphere. An ideal time to measure exactly such a small annual shift is at culmination. The culmination of the star is daily reached when the observer (and earth) passes as shown by the blue arrows "beneath" the star. The positive axes of the two components of its usually annually measured or published shift in proper motion are the exaggerated red arrows, note: the right arrows point to the east horizon. One red annotation is subtly shorter as the cosine of a star resting at 0° declination is 1, so such a star's east or west shift would not need to be multiplied by the cosine of its declination. The proper motion vector is μ, α = right ascension, δ = declination, θ = position angle (simply the 90° compliment of declination).
Barnard's Star, showing position every 5 years 1985–2005.
Proper motion of 61 Cygni in one year intervals.

Two or more stars, double stars or open star clusters, which are moving in similar directions, exhibit so-called shared or common proper motion (or cpm.), suggesting they may be gravitationally attached or share similar motion in space.

A visual band light curve for YY Geminorum (Castor C), adapted from Butler et al. (2015)

Castor (star)

Second-brightest object in the zodiac constellation of Gemini.

Second-brightest object in the zodiac constellation of Gemini.

A visual band light curve for YY Geminorum (Castor C), adapted from Butler et al. (2015)

Appearing to the naked eye as a single star, Castor was first recorded as a double star in 1718 by James Pound, but it may have been resolved into at least two sources of light by Cassini as early as 1678.

The constellation Ursa Major as it can be seen by the unaided eye.

Ursa Major

Constellation in the northern sky, whose associated mythology likely dates back into prehistory.

Constellation in the northern sky, whose associated mythology likely dates back into prehistory.

The constellation Ursa Major as it can be seen by the unaided eye.
Ursa Major and Ursa Minor in relation to Polaris
Ursa Major shown on a carved stone, c.1700, Crail, Fife
H. A. Rey's alternative asterism for Ursa Major can be said to give it the longer head and neck of a polar bear, as seen in this photo, from the left side.
Ursa Major as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825.
Johannes Hevelius drew Ursa Major as if being viewed from outside the celestial sphere.
Starry Night Over the Rhone by Vincent van Gogh (1888)
Polaris and the Big Dipper on the flag of Alaska.

ζ Ursae Majoris, Mizar, the second star in from the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, and the constellation's fourth-brightest star. Mizar, which means "girdle," forms a famous double star, with its optical companion Alcor (80 Ursae Majoris), the two of which were termed the "horse and rider" by the Arabs.

Mizar and Alcor in constellation Ursa Major

Mizar and Alcor

Mizar and Alcor in constellation Ursa Major

Mizar and Alcor are two stars forming a naked eye double in the handle of the Big Dipper (or Plough) asterism in the constellation of Ursa Major.

Asteroid 65 Cybele and two stars, with their magnitudes labeled

Apparent magnitude

Measure of the brightness of a star or other astronomical object observed from Earth.

Measure of the brightness of a star or other astronomical object observed from Earth.

Asteroid 65 Cybele and two stars, with their magnitudes labeled
Image of 30 Doradus taken by ESO's VISTA. This nebula has a visual magnitude of 8.
Graph of relative brightness versus magnitude

For example, photometry on closely separated double stars may only be able to produce a measurement of their combined light output.