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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: The Secret Lives of Wide Stellar Binaries
5 December 2012 1:00 pm
In a wide binary, two stars orbit each other even though they're much farther apart than Pluto is from our sun, and the nearest example is easy to find: Alpha Centauri, the sun's closest stellar neighbor, consists of a bright star and a faint one separated by one-fifth of a light-year. The bright "star" is a binary itself (artist's conception shown), so Alpha Centauri actually has three separate suns. Now, computer simulations reported online today in Nature imply that wide binaries often begin life as compact triple stars, two of which join up to kick the third away. If the cast-off star remains gravitationally bound to the other two—as with Alpha Centauri—a wide binary results with the far-off star orbiting the central pair on a highly elliptical path. The key to stability is simple: The far-off star must keep its distance. Perhaps our own star was born with two others but didn't heed this advice: As the other two stars cozied up together, the sun tried to intrude, and the happy couple gave it the boot.
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