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Picture of the Day

Circumbinary castaways

Planets orbiting "short-period" binary stars, or stars locked in close orbital embrace, can be ejected off into space as a consequence of their host stars' evolution, according to new research. The findings help explain why astronomers have detected few circumbinary planets -- which orbit stars that in turn orbit each other -- despite observing thousands of short-term binary stars, or ones with orbital periods of 10 days or less. There are several different types of binary stars, such as visual and spectroscopic binaries, named for the ways astronomers are able to observe them. When eclipsing binaries orbit each other closely, within about 10 days or less, the researchers found that their tides -- gravitational forces each exerts on the other -- have "dynamical consequences" to the star system.

Visit Website | Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle