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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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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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