Theta Aurigae – A Double Star?

Home Forums Deep Sky Theta Aurigae – A Double Star?

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #609905
    Iain Poplett
    Participant

    Since I took up my interest in double star observation using Celestron 130ST reflector under the London night sky, I have been enjoying doing this. Two requests from your community –
    1) An ideal double star that is wide with a short period – preferable within a circumpolar sky. So I could practise the measurements.
    2) Is Theta Aurigae a double star? All of resources said so but with my scope and a wide range of eyepieces, I could not see the 2nd companion (Mag +7.2) at all. Are the stars getting closer than the quoted 4.2″? I managed to observe a more difficult double star (the smallest separation I could achieve with my scope is 3.1″, only if the magnitudes of both stars are similar and around 4-6).

    #609911
    Christopher Newman
    Participant

    I do not think you are going to see two stars orbiting about a common center of mass in a short time scale, in the same way you might see Ganymede going around Jupiter. Short period binary systems are so close together you will not separate the stars visually, but you can easily detect the varying brightness as one star passes in front of the other, if they are so oriented. Check out the Eclipsing Binary stars recommended for observation in the variable star section. W Ursa Majoris is one star I have monitored and it has a short period of about 7 hrs so if you start at the right time you can easily plot a light curve in a night.

    #609912
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    What do you regard as a “short period”?
    What do you regard as “wide”?

    Hard to give specific advice without answers to those questions.

    #609920
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    According to the Washington Double Star Catalogue
    http://vizier.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/VizieR-3?-source=B/wds/wds
    the separation was 2.1 arcsec in 1871 and 4.2 in 2019. This reference has it as 3.9 arcsec in 2002
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1012.3383
    so also consistent with it widening currently.
    Visual doubles is not my field but I guess 4 arcsec separation with a 5 magnitude difference in brightness could be pretty tough

    Cheers
    Robin

    #609921
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    Based on the notes in the WDS it is considered an optical pair which I take to mean it is not a binary but just two stars “passing in the night”
    http://vizier.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/VizieR?-6N&-out.form=H0&amp://*&-source%3DB/wds/notes&WDS%3D%3D%3D05597%2b3713

    Cheers
    Robin

    EDIT: it appears the link has broken somewhere. I’ll leave you to navigate to it via WDS

    #609930
    David Basey
    Participant

    I’m not a double star observer myself but I seem to recall that Zeta Her was often touted as a ‘fast’ binary (period 34.5 years). A quick internet search suggests the separation is currently 1.5″ but not changing significantly. However the PA is changing by 5deg per year so maybe that change is detectable over a period of say two years.

    Your best bet is to contact the Deep Sky Section which has a double star group. Their Newsletters may also be of help here as they generally include double star info. The link is:- https://britastro.org/document_folder/baa-document-store/sections/deep-sky-section

    #609956
    Iain Poplett
    Participant

    Thanks to all participants that answered my queries. Robin, thanks for pointing to Washington Double Star Catalogue. It should be useful – my Cambridge Double Star Atlas is not much of help concerning Theta Aurigae. I would like to clarify my question – wide separation & short period. I would like to observe a visual double star system with period of say 10 years rather than an eclipsing binary. Thanks to David for pointing to the Double Star group within Deep Sky Section – I found two excellent articles on double star observation & measurements in Deep Sky Newsletter 2021 issue. Thanks again, David!

    #609958
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    Thank you, that is very helpful. Now take a little time to think about some elementary geometry.

    The definition of a parsec is the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends one second of arc. A parsec is about 3.2 light years, and Jupiter orbits the sun at a distance of 5AU in 12 years. Seen from a parsec away, Jupiter would be at most 5″ from the sun. A more massive object would orbit more quickly at the same distance, or be further away for the same period, ’tis true, but we’re talking order of magnitude estimates here.

    The nearest star, alpha Centauri, is 1.3 parsecs away and although it is a multiple system the separations are many AU and the orbital periods are much more than a decade.

    The only one which stands a chance of meeting your requirement is Sirius which is 2.7 parsecs away and where the companion is at most 11″ from the primary; the orbital period is about 50 years. A fair number of people have imaged Sirius B, myself included (see the gallery), but it is far from being an easy object.

    Good luck!

    If you want to measure stellar movements over a short period of time I would suggest that you start with stars of high proper motion. Barnard’s star is the easiest target and its movement can be measured within a week or two if you are careful. It moves around 11″ per annum, or 1″ per month. Careful astrometry should be good to around 0.3″ with amateur equipment. Again, see the gallery for my animated GIF which shows the movement from one summer to the next.

    Paul

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Paul Leyland. Reason: Fix tyop
    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Paul Leyland.
    #609960
    Daryl Dobbs
    Participant

    John McCue has written an interesting overview on how to observe double stars.
    https://britastro.org/journal_contents_ite/observing-double-stars

    #609962
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    The nearest star, alpha Centauri, is 1.3 parsecs away and although it is a multiple system the separations are many AU and the orbital periods are much more than a decade.

    Thinking about it, if you are prepared to use a robotic telescope and/or travel to the southern hemisphere and are willing to relax your orbital period requirement to 80 years, alpha Cen is also a possibility.

    #609968

    I would suggest asking Bob Argyle who heads up the Webb Society double star section as he is probably the best expert on double stars in the UK and is a frequent observer of these things.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.