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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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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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