Astronomers discover exotic star system in Ursa Major constellation

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Five stars are connected unlike any seen before in a star system. Located 250 light-years from Earth in Ursa Major constellation, the system was studied by Marcus Lohr of Open University, United Kingdom.

The team identified the stars SuperWasp project data. The cost-effective cameras in Canary Islands and South Africa photograph the whole sky every few minutes.

When Lohr and his team were studying the system, 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5, it consisted of four stars—two binary stars locked together. Making a presentation at the National Astronomical Meeting, 2015 in Wales on 8 July, Lohr said the system actually consists of five stars—two binaries and a fifth one—the first of its kind.

The two binaries, as Lohr and his team noted, are called an eclipsing binary. These binary stars orbit each other eclipsing one another, blocking some or all of the other star’s light. Binaries were one the first identification made. Contact binaries have an unusually short orbital cycle—hardly six hours.

Although each of the stars are smaller than the sun, united they are bright enough to be visible through small telescopes. “This is an exotic star system. Sometimes there could be no fewer than five suns of different brightnesses lighting up the landscape,” said Lohr.

After analysing the data, Lohr spoke of a fifth star at a distance of two billion km from the detached binary, at a distance to not eclipse the binaries, but gravitationally bound in a five-star system.

“Days have varying light levels as the different stars are eclipsed. They will miss out on night for a large part of their ‘year’ and experience darkness when the stars are on the same side of the world.”

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