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Big Dipper "Star" Actually a Sextuplet System

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the toil-and-trouble dept.

Space 88

Theosis sends word that an astronomer at the University of Rochester and his colleagues have made the surprise discovery that Alcor, one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper, is actually two stars; and it is apparently gravitationally bound to the four-star Mizar system, making the whole group a sextuplet. This would make the Mizar-Alcor sextuplet the second-nearest such system known. The discovery is especially surprising because Alcor is one of the most studied stars in the sky. The Mizar-Alcor system has been involved in many "firsts" in the history of astronomy: "Benedetto Castelli, Galileo's protege and collaborator, first observed with a telescope that Mizar was not a single star in 1617, and Galileo observed it a week after hearing about this from Castelli, and noted it in his notebooks... Those two stars, called Mizar A and Mizar B, together with Alcor, in 1857 became the first binary stars ever photographed through a telescope. In 1890, Mizar A was discovered to itself be a binary, being the first binary to be discovered using spectroscopy. In 1908, spectroscopy revealed that Mizar B was also a pair of stars, making the group the first-known quintuple star system."

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Sextuplet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30404410)

Dang, there must be some Sexy aliens over there!

Only 78 light years away (5, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404430)

The surprising thing is that this is only about 80 light years away. That's practically our next door neighbor. The fact that there would be undiscovered stars that close is nothing short of amazing. The new star is very small and dim which helps explain why it was not previously discovered. Still this is a good example of how much we have left to learn. We don't even have a good understanding of our nearby stellar neighbors.

Re:Only 78 light years away (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30404748)

And being stars, even dim, they're easily some of the most visible objects in the sky. Consider just the Solar system and how many things in it that we don't know about. There's probably more we don't know about just within the heliopause than there is that we do know about.

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

ral (93840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404900)

Surprising indeed. There are only about 70 stars within 80 light years of us [wikimedia.org]

Re:Only 78 light years away (3, Informative)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405126)

Actually, that chart only says that there are about 70 stars whose distance is approximately 80 l.y. from here.

The cumulative total is more than that.

2539 stars within 80 light years (3, Informative)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405718)

Indeed. And what an odd way to draw a chart, omitting a key to what counts as "80 light years". Does it count stars 80.1 light years away? 80.5? 82? Probably (79.5,80.5], but I've never seen "at" have an uncertainty of three trillion miles.

The source for that chart says there are 2539 stars within 80 light years (24.53 parsecs).

Re:2539 stars within 80 light years (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408486)

Well, ya know, as anyone who watched the economy recently can tell you, a trillion ain't what it used to be...

Re:Only 78 light years away (3, Informative)

TwineLogic (1679802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405742)

The chart has a linear regression line fit to it, and it seems like a decent fit line. So we might take the equation for the number of stars at a certain radius (let's call it stars_on_sphere(R) function) would be:

      stars_on_sphere(R) = m R + b

From the graph it appears m = 5 / 6 and b = -1. The cumulative total suggested by the graph would then be the integral:

      stars_within_distance(R) = Integral( 5 R / 6 - 1 ) = (5/12) R^2 - R

At 80 l.y. that is around 2600 stars within 80 light years.

whoot, 2600!

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

rve (4436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405130)

Surprising indeed. There are only about 70 stars within 80 light years of us [wikimedia.org]

That is possibly correct, I don't know an awful lot about it, but that's not what that graph you linked to says. It says there are about 70 stars at a distance of 80 light years. If you want to know the number of stars within 80 light years, then you need to look at the area below the curve. Looks like about (80 * 65) / 2, about 2600 stars.

Re:Only 78 light years away (2, Informative)

alva_edison (630431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405616)

According to the link, the original source of the graph was http://nstars.nau.edu/nau_nstars/multi_search_start.php.  From here it is possible to do a search by distance and have stars within a range returned.  Searching for the range of 0 to 24.53 parsecs gave 2539 results.  Also, the other sextuplet system that is closer is somewehre around 50 lightyears away.

Re:Only 78 light years away (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405172)

The surprising thing is that this is only about 80 light years away. That's practically our next door neighbor.

And if that star has a planet that had a species that had a SETI fifty years ago, they would have to keep searching for another twenty to forty years to pick up evidence of Earth having an intelligent species. They'd be waiting until 2119 before they heard the first human voice.

I'm curious, does anyone know how many stars there are within a hundred light year radius of the sun? My googlefu is weak today...

Re:Only 78 light years away (2, Funny)

Stupid McStupidson (1660141) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405362)

And if that star has a planet that had a species that had a SETI fifty years ago, they would have to keep searching for another twenty to forty years to pick up evidence of Earth having an intelligent species. They'd be waiting until 2119 before they heard the first human voice.

And in 2200 the 2000kg tungsten slugs traveling at .9c begin crashing into the earth

Re:Only 78 light years away (4, Insightful)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405938)

at .9c I'm pretty sure they would be crashing through the earth. Not that it would matter, at least not for very long.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408890)

Funny comment, but I seriously doubt a 2k slug going .9c could even breach the crust and hit the mantle. The crust is ~50 miles thick. People can't grasp just how big the earth is. Sure at .9c it would likely kill everything within a few thousand miles except for the bacteria and send the earth into a very long ice age, but it's not going to penetrate the core or go through the planet. If something were physically large enough and moving fast enough to penetrate the planet it's not going to punch a hole through the earth, that kind of force would fragment the earth into many smaller bodies (blast it into a million pieces in slang term) moving at enough velocity that the planet might not reform (depending on the size of the object and whether the earth's gravity well could trap it). For example, the object that impacted the earth that created the moon was very large (referenced as a small planetoid, certainly larger than the 2k slugs referenced, and moving at significant speed according to the simulations) and on impact simply combined with the earth and ejected the material that became the moon from the impact.

The earth is big people, if you think the sky is big keep in mind the atmosphere on the earth if compared to the same ratio as an egg is thinner than the shell of the egg. In fact the analogy is that on the same ratio if the earth was the size of an egg the atmosphere would be the thickness of a very thin layer of paint. Nothing short of a substantial comet (large mass, as in several million kg) moving at near C is going to smash through the earth and I'm not even sure it could.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409250)

You're right- normal objects couldn't penetrate the Earth significantly without completely destroying it. Degenerate matter could, though. For instance, a strangelet (if they exist and are stable) would probably go straight through the Earth for the same reason that bullets fly through air: the density contrast is enormous. Same with primordial mini black holes and non-interacting particles like neutrinos and (probably) dark matter.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409866)

But the sheer force of speed is also beyond people's grasp. At 0.9c it doesn't matter what it is, it's got kinetic energy enough to be more than a bomb even if it's full of feathers. A quick search indicates the formula is E_k = mc^2( 1/(v/c)^2 -1 ) that for a 2000 kg projectile at 0.9c would be 7.7*10^20 joules or 183 gigatons. And it's not spherical, 99% of the force will be in the direction of the impact like a shaped detonation. I'd rather not check what that'll do.

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30463302)

People can't grasp just how big the earth is.

I think people can't grasp how fast C is...

So who would win? Pirates or Ninjas?

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411198)

"Through" is just another way of saying "into and then out of." And I doubt anyone would be around for the second part, so "into the earth" works for me. =)

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30416262)

Let's go through this: At 0.9c you should take relativistic effect into account, but a rough approximation would be to use the classical kinetic energy, 1/2 m v^2, where v = c. That means the energy content is the same as converting half the mass to pure energy as per the theory of relativity. Now 1 kg of mass is about 20 megaton TNT, ie. about the same as the biggest bombs ever kept in the US arsenal.

If I had to destroy the earth, I'd spread my 2000 kg slugs (=40000 megaton TNT) out in a lot of smaller, say 100 kiloton weapons, and have them impact over a period to get all sides of the planet. Not gonna get the bacteria, but humans would probably be toast, and civilization would be gone for sure. On the other hand, with that capability I'd just colonize the galaxy before humans did and worry about them later...

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30407930)

Two more stars! Apparently the Vogons have been busy...

http://www.solstation.com/stars.htm is an excellent resource for those looking for timeshare asteroids, gas giant summer homes or travel to exotic lands within a few hyperspatial bypasses of this little galactic backwater. Now, if I could only find the email address where my password retrieval went, I'd be posting as myself instead of AC. Aaargh! (CrazyCanuck)

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409828)

I'm still trying to find intelligent life on Earth, if these Aliens can find some I'd appreciate them contacting me.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30430898)

Intelligence is relative. A housecat is incredibly intelligent, compared to an omeba. We are incredibly intelligent compared to the species we evolved from. Compare us to whatever we become in another five million years and you're right, there is no intelligent life on earth.

OT - your sig:
How about +5 troll? [slashdot.org]

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30460040)

Intelligence is relative. A housecat is incredibly intelligent, compared to an omeba. We are incredibly intelligent compared to the species we evolved from. Compare us to whatever we become in another five million years and you're right, there is no intelligent life on earth.

OT - your sig:
How about +5 troll? [slashdot.org]

That presupposes the potential capacity for biological intelligence (and machine intelligence, if truly sapient machines are ever proven possible) is either infinite (since the universe its self is finite, how could that even be possible without some supernatural element?) or at least many orders of magnitude greater than the maximum of the human range. While I'm certain current humans don't represent the height achievement on the intelligence continuum, I'm not convinced that it extends so far that relative difference would be the same as our difference between us and our simian ancestors.

The main reason for my opinion is that entirely new mental capabilities generally characterize such large increases in intellectual sophistication, not just improvement to existing capabilities. Unlike a house cat, an amoeba doesn't have either emotional responses or memory. Unlike monkeys and other apes, humans can do abstract reasoning, like algebraic calculations, or create detailed descriptions about hypothetical that never happened, like works of speculative fiction. Perhaps it is a result of my own mental limitations as a human being, but I don't see further mental development resulting in anything other than further refinement of the mental abilities humans already possess. So in 5 million years our descendants may think faster and with greater accuracy than we are capable of presently, but I doubt their would be any fundamental differences. They would more likely regard the average modern human much the same way as a person with a 200+ IQ would regard someone else with an ~85 IQ, but not as unthinking animals.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

lousyd (459028) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414316)

googlefu... Wolfram Alpha?

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405176)

I think what happens is that people get interested in the latest thing and we don't fill in all the gaps of knowledge in between. Its kinda like that whole
thing with water being spun really fast. It seems like its something simple, but its just one of the gaps in knowledge that occur when people jump ahead to the
latest thing. Its also probably why the U.S. has such large areas of nothing in between Illinois and California. Sure there are cities and such, but its not nearly as developed as say PA or OH are. Once gold was discovered in California, people stopped settling the middle states and jumped ahead to the end.

Everybody likes to think that its all been done, its all been said, but they haven't even tried.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405410)

"Its kinda like that whole thing with water being spun really fast"

Huh? Do you have a link to describe what you are trying to say?

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30405562)

I also do not understand the reference to water being spun really fast.

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

djfuq (1151563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405642)

Re:Only 78 light years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30407326)

cool. it's like a water based spirograph!

Re:Only 78 light years away (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408434)

It may be the same reason why people go everywhere on the planet but don't even know their own home town: It's not that interesting to look at stuff that's "always been 'round" anyway. You wouldn't expect some new insight from something that has been studied for centuries, would you? It's far more likely to make that headline news discovery somewhere where nobody looked before.

In case anyone was wondering... (5, Informative)

Painted (1343347) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404440)

Alcor, the star in question, is the middle star on the "handle" of the dipper.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

wwest4 (183559) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404940)

The handle bend isn't really a star as much as it's an asterism, of which Mizar is the prominent member... Alcor is the much dimmer (still visible) partner. Contrary to the article, it's not merely a minority opinion that Mizar and Alcor comprise a false binary... calling the whole thing a sextuple system might be a bit of an exaggeration.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404960)

Wait a minute... I thought Mizar was the middle star! :) (It is, afterall, the brightest of the cluster.)

Bill

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405054)

And in case anyone outside the US is wondering, the big dipper is Ursa Major otherwise known as the plough.
I'm also not from the states and am at a loss as to why it's called the bigger dipper. Could anyone inform me?

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405124)

It is because they resemble a dipping ladel. (Which is generally referred to as a "Dipper" in the US.)

Bill

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405156)

I wish Slashdot would allow you to edit a previous post.

Before any Spelling Nazis get a hold of it, it is "Ladle!"

Bill

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (2, Funny)

mforbes (575538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405530)

More specifically, the Pleiades cluster is sometimes erroneously referred to as a dipper. Thus, what we Americans usually call the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) becomes the Big Dipper, and Ursa Major the Bigger Dipper.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30406572)

Not quite. Ursa Minor == Little Dipper. The pleiades (or Subaru in Japan, look at their logo), though some confuse it as the little dipper. Ursa Major != Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is a *part* of Ursa Major.

Sorry, but I worked in a planetarium for a number of years.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30406968)

Why is Little Dipper a synonym for Ursa Minor while The Big Dipper is only *part* of Ursa Major? In both cases, the dipper is formed by only seven stars in the constellation, which include many more. Any I've never seen any of the other stars included when "drawing" either constellation.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30405322)

Actually, Ursa Major is a larger constellation representing a bear that happens to contain the big dipper. Hence the name "Ursa Major", or "large bear".

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30406116)

Actually, the big dipper is a *part* of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. A plow/dipper whatever you want to call it, it is not Ursa Major.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

thirty-seven (568076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30406146)

I'm from outside the US (Canada), and we know it as the big dipper, too. Of course, the latin name Ursa Major is known to those of us here who have a particular interest in constellations. But the name "the plough" is mostly unknown here.

Re:In case anyone was wondering... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409154)

Technically the big dipper, or plough in most of England, is an asterism (a recognizable pattern of stars that is NOT a constellation) composed of stars that are part of the constellation Ursa Major (the big bear).

More to come (2, Informative)

z4ns4stu (1607909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404468)

From TFA:

Mamajek is continuing his efforts to find planets around nearby stars, but his attention is not completely off Alcor and Mizar. "You see how the disk of Alcor B doesn't seem perfectly round?" says Mamajek, pointing toward an image of Alcor and its new companion. "Some of us have a feeling that Alcor might actually have another surprise in store for us.

It just goes to show you that there's always something more to learn.

Actually a quadruple... (-1)

yope (656090) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404478)

2*2=4, so that would be a quadruple, I guess.

Re:Actually a quadruple... (1)

Steve Max (1235710) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404518)

2*2 form Mizar, and 2 form Alcor; all six stars are gravitationally bound, and to the (untrained) naked eye look like a single star. So, the whole system is sextuplet.

Re:Actually a quadruple... (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405360)

2*2 form Mizar, and 2 form Alcor; all six stars are gravitationally bound, and to the (untrained) naked eye look like a single star.

Actually Mizar and Alcor are visibly distinct to somebody with a good eye.

Re:Actually a quadruple... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404538)

"four-star Mizar system".

Re:Actually a quadruple... (4, Informative)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404596)

You don't even need to RTFA - it is in the summary. Miza is a binary of binaries and Alcor is a binary. (2+2)+2=6. So you would not guess correctly.

Re:Actually a quadruple... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30405666)

No no, you've got it all wrong. Didn't you ever learn binary? It is an octuplet. 2*2*2 = 8

Re:Actually a quadruple... (1)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30406832)

Obviously, this star system is the setting for Asimov's Nightfall [wikipedia.org] .

(Technically not, as--if you read carefully--it is mentioned that Kalgash is near the galactic core... but it's an interesting thought regardless.)

obvious logical deduction: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404548)

in the year 2110, the mizar-alcor system will be discovered to actually be a septuple star system

Re:obvious logical deduction: (4, Funny)

Reziac (43301) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404742)

More likely they'll be discovered to be giant glowing tribbles. How else do you explain it going from one star to six in just a few hundred years? ;)

Use extrapolation instead (2, Funny)

McKeegan (1584871) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404994)

By using extrapolation [xkcd.com] , I conclude that by 2020 we'll have discovered dozens of stars in the Mizar-Alcor system.

So what you're saying... (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30407228)

So what you're saying is that it's stars all the way down?

My big dipper (2, Funny)

bsharp8256 (1372285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404608)

My big dipper is a sextuplet system too...

I think you misunderstood. (1)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405210)

AU means astronomical unit, not atomic unit. In your case, the measurement in Bohr radius doesn't qualify.

I suggested this... (4, Funny)

TheGreatOrangePeel (618581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404694)

I suggested to my wife we try the sextruplet system with my big dipper and the neighbors, but she would have none of it.

Re:I suggested this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30405024)

I guess your big dipper theory didn't hold as much water as you thought.

Re:I suggested this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30405128)

Oh, I think it's more like the lil' dipper, actually.

We're having a talk when you get home.
-The Wife

Re:I suggested this... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405258)

Uh oh, she sounds Sirius! [siriusrising.com]

FTA (1)

Fry-kun (619632) | more than 4 years ago | (#30404996)

That group has also recorded a rough spectrum of the star, which Mamajek says confirms his prediction that the companion is a cool and dim M-class dwarf star.

...so it should at least have Roddenberries

Ancients needed glasses? (2, Insightful)

mrbester (200927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405254)

FTFA: "In ancient times, people with exceptional vision discovered that one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper was, in fact, two stars so close together that most people cannot distinguish them."

In ancient times the atmosphere was cleaner than now, and had a lot less light pollution from towns. Yet it apparently took "exceptional vision" to see Alcor and Mizar as separate stars. I must have phenomenal eyesight then to be able see them any night it isn't cloudy.

Re:Ancients needed glasses? (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405678)

I believe they were meaning that the bigger of the two you can see was found to be a binary, not that the two you see were found. So in other words, Mizar A and B in the 1700s, Alcor was discovered much earlier as it is easy to see that it is there.

Re:Ancients needed glasses? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405918)

Naw, TFA is talking about distinguishing Alcor and Mizar as distinct stars with the naked eye. It took telescopes to resolve Mizar as the Mizar A and B system.

Personally, I haven't been able to see Alcor/Mizar with the naked eye on a cloudless night far away from cities and I don't need glasses, so maybe the OP just has exceptional vision.

Re:Ancients needed glasses? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409192)

Mizar/Alcor are distinguishable even by people who do need glasses (maybe you should get your vision checked). It's been suggested that the only-the-people-with-the-sharpest-vision thing is actually referring to another, dimmer star that appears between Mizar and Alcor and WOULD require exceptional vision to see.

Re:Ancients needed glasses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30406008)

Alcor is faint and small enough that if you're near or farsighted or have artifacts like astigmatism or cataracts, you won't be able to see it with the naked eye. "Perfect eyesight" in this context means "normal eyesight". 20/20 vision is not exceptional, but it is still "perfect".

Btw, in the ancient times the atmosphere in a populated area (e.g. Greek cities) was filled with smoky haze from burning firewood. This was the case everywhere until oil/gas and electric heat were introduced. I experienced this situation firsthand a couple of winters ago when my neighborhood in a Seattle suburb was without electricity for a week and the people who couldn't afford to evacuate but had wood burning fireplaces had to resort to burning wood to stay warm. Even though this population was small, the stars were barely visible through the smoke and every building was covered in black soot after a week.

Re:Ancients needed glasses? (1)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408496)

You havent reached whatever comes after middle age then. I have trouble splitting them in a city now, but cant tell whether its because of the city lights or because my eyes are shot. They look great through a 10" dobsonian in any case :-)

Re:Ancients needed glasses? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408724)

In ancient times the atmosphere was cleaner than now, and had a lot less light pollution from towns. Yet it apparently took "exceptional vision" to see Alcor and Mizar as separate stars. I must have phenomenal eyesight then to be able see them any night it isn't cloudy.

By ancient standards, you probably do. Especially if you have it without the use of corrective lenses that weren't available in ancient times.

Queue the sex jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30405548)

1... 2... 3...

Nearest sextuplet (5, Informative)

sidyan (110067) | more than 4 years ago | (#30405596)

In case anyone was wondering (and since TFA doesn't mention it), the nearest sextuplet star, is, of course, Alpha Geminorum [wikipedia.org] , a.k.a. Castor, the second-brightest star in the zodiac sign of Gemini [wikipedia.org] , a.k.a. the Twins. It's some 50-odd lightyears away.

Note that Beta Geminorum [wikipedia.org] , a.k.a. Pollux, is actually the brightest star in Gemini (whether Johann Bayer [wikipedia.org] labelled Castor as the alpha star because it rises first in the night's sky, or because mythologically, the twins are always labelled "Castor and Pollux", is unknown). Pollux is a single star, with one confirmed exoplanet, Polydeuces [wikipedia.org] orbitting it.

Nightfall (4, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#30406004)

I couldn't help but think of Asimov's story, Nightfall. In it, a planet is in a 6-star system and is never dark. Interesting things happen.

Re:Nightfall (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409208)

It is almost never dark.

Whoops, should have warned about that spoiler, hey?

Re:Nightfall (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411332)

Man, you couldn't blown that more than if you'd put the spoiler in the title of the book.

WTF? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30406370)

So you are telling me that this system now has 6 suns instead of 4?
I think this calls for George Lucas to redo all the star wars movies YET AGAIN, with
a new backdrop featuring the 6 suns, as it could very well be a cooler movie with 6 instead of 2!!!

Re:WTF? (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409098)

This must be a great location for a Ray-Ban store!

mod 0p (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30406432)

Astrobooboos (2, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30407454)

Alcor is not one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper. It is a dim double with Mizar. We usually consider the dipper to have 7 stars: 4 in the 'pot' and three in the handle. Mizar is the center of the handle. Alcor is so close to Mizar and relatively dim that it's not even considered a point in the constellation.

Not incorrect but misleading, Castelli was the first to see it as a double 'with a telescope'. The names themselves being Arabic, should be a tip off. Would Alcor have an Arabic name if they didn't see it? They are a visual double, not requiring a telescope to see if one has good vision (as opposed to an optical double, being line of sight but not necessarily naked eye). Such as noted by the Arabic chroniclers of astronomy, as well as the Native Americans who saw the bowl of the dipper as the bear, and the three stars in the handle as three bear cubs or some as three hunters (or sever, per the Mikmac) following the bear. All knew of the two stars. Sir Patrick Moore suggests the early writings refer to Mizar A and B instead, and gives good logical thinking, though I know of pre-tlescope maps of Mizar and Alcor, but not Mizar A and B,

Re:Astrobooboos (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409210)

You got your mythology all wrong, dude. It's common knowledge that Alcor invented the Internet and then went on to discover Global Warming.

Re:Astrobooboos (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30409320)

Resolving Mizar A and B (14 arcsecond separation) exceeds the theoretical resolving power of the human eye, and even with perfect vision your eye can't come close to that limit in the dark because your pupil dilates.

Sir Patrick Moore suggests that the reference is to splitting Mizar and a dim star that appears between Mizar and Alcor.

This raises a question (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30407978)

How close do the stars have to be to be considered a binary (or n-ary) system? Isn't every star in the galaxy ultimately rotating around every other star in the galaxy?

How close? Doesn't matter. (1)

brindafella (702231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408622)

I beg to differ with your question. Think of the solar system [wikipedia.org] comprising the sun, planets of various sizes and compositions (including several "gas planets" that are, arguably, just slightly-too-small proto-stars, and right out to the "scattered disc [wikipedia.org] " and even the Oort cloud [wikipedia.org] . So, from Mercury outwards*, there are objects that orbit the sun. Distance, like size, does not matter: It's all orbital mechanics [wikipedia.org] . (* And, yes, some objects notably comets [wikipedia.org] 'orbit' - for some of their regular orbital period - well inside the orbit of Mercury then spend a great deal of the orbit a great distance further out in the solar system.)

Re:This raises a question (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30408788)

Isn't every star in the galaxy ultimately rotating around every other star in the galaxy?

No. Every star in the universe is gravitationally affected by every other star in the universe, but none are known to actually revolve around all the others (and none rotate around anything but their own axis).

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412258)

I wonder how many geeks are going to get laid using that one this Christmas.

Nightfall Azimov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413450)

Nightfall from Azimov took place there.

Re:Nightfall Azimov (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30416022)

No, Nightfall took place in a sextuple system inside a globular cluster, so that when night finally fell the people saw the sky _full_ of stars. They would probably have survived the sight of the few thousand stars in the sky of Earth, but millions gave them a horrible case of Krikkit syndrome.
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