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More to the North Star Than Meets the Eye

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the polaris-trifecta dept.

Space 179

__roo writes "By stretching the capabilities of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to the limit, astronomers have photographed the close companion of Polaris for the first time. This sequence of images shows that the North Star, Polaris is really a triple star system. 'The star we observed is so close to Polaris that we needed every available bit of Hubble's resolution to see it'" said astronomer Nancy Evans of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts."

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Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429274)

Cool as beans, but still won't save dear old Hubble, will it? The one thing Hubble can't find, no matter how much straining of limits is the willingness of NASA to save the faithful servant. With recent budget cuts for Katrina and the on-going war, don't hold your breath for a reprieve.

they should nickname the mini star, Cooper

Got an ETX for Christmas? You should know this site. [weasner.com]

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (4, Informative)

artitumis (934987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429350)

The Hubble already has a repalcement in the works. It is called The James Webb Space Telescope and is scheduled to go up in 2013. More about the JWST [nasa.gov]

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (4, Informative)

Rolan (20257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429652)

Yes, someone always posts this when the death of the hubble is brought up, but what they never do is pay attention that the JWST can't see all that Hubble sees. They're built to look at different parts of the spectrum (yes, there is overlap), so one will never actually replace the capabilites of the other. They would however complement eachother's abilities.

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (1)

jcgeuze (943829) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430164)

Which country is paying for that?

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (4, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429433)

Actually, I'm not sure that there's anything in this observation that Hubble is needed for. AO is limited in the ultraviolet, but this observation could have been made in the visisble spectrum, I would expect. As such, any of the more recent large telescopes with AO should have been able to make this observation. It just so happens that it was done with Hubble instead.

For those not aware, AO is "Addaptive Optics". This is how you use ground-based scopes, but compensate for the atmosphere. It usually involves deforming a physical mirror, though I think there are some AO systems that work purely digitally. I'm not sure. IANAA.

AO was perfected after Hubble went up, and many ground-based scopes have gotten imaging that's just as detailed (more so in some cases) as Hubble is capable of. I have an astronomer friend who was fond of showing off some photos that he had from AO scopes off of relatively old, retrofitted systems that he claimed were better imaging that Hubble had been able to get from the same objects.

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (4, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429637)

Adaptive optics systems are necessarily ground-based. The actuators and the lenses required are too bulky and heavy to be lugged into orbit. The atmosphere absorbs much incoming radiation. (Thank god, or we'd all literally be toast.) Scientists interested in the ultraviolet have to use space-based telescopes. Hence, the Hubble replacement does not focus on the visible because AO can take care of that from Earth, since we can build arbitrarily large arrays.

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (3, Informative)

Moofie (22272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429702)

Since orbital astronomical telescopes aren't looking through atmospheres, adaptive optics are not necessary.

The surveillance ones, on the other hand, are another story.

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (1)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429996)

You don't really need AO when you're in orbit anyway, because there's no atmosphere to distort the image in the first place. Lugging an AO setup into space would be redundant.

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429958)

I agree with most of what you have said, but if you talk with your astronomer friend, he/she will admit that AO works within a limited spectrum, and that atmospheric transmissibility is frequently and issue.

Some observations from space based telescopes, such as UV (James Webb) and infrared (Hubble) images, are virtually guaranteed to be superior to comparable observations performed at ground based facilities. When you consider that infrared observations permit you to view the farthest/furthest back in time, which is particularly relevant to cosmology, it is hard to argue that Hubble is superfluous.

Re:Just Beyond The Capabilities of My 125 ETX (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429462)

Cool as beans, but still won't save dear old Hubble, will it? The one thing Hubble can't find, no matter how much straining of limits is the willingness of NASA to save the faithful servant. With recent budget cuts for Katrina and the on-going war, don't hold your breath for a reprieve.

Or, better yet, we could scrap hubble and use the money we saved to build a telescope twice as powerful for half as much, including giving it a properly ground mirror this time.

Well, beyond its capabilities (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429589)

However, all of these comments are irrelevant. You all think that you really know so much, but you have yet to understand what really matters in this region of the sky. Save Hubble you ask? It is really a piece of space trash that must be abandoned, either as (1) space junk, or, (2) a fragment most desired to be burned in the atmosphere. Oh, the atmosphere. And since NASA forgot to design a heat shield platform onto Hubble, it is unlikely that it will survive the heat and stresses of reentry. A disaster is sure to arrive, such as that which happened to Space Shuttle Columbia on that fateful day a few years ago.
 
In conclusion, I strongly suggest that you all rethink your tooling as it would cost roughly $500 billion in American dollars to repair Hubble, but it would only cost $100 million to build the fusion reactor to power the next telescope that is designed to operate on the lunar parameterization of Mons Pubis. Be careful where you stand--our government cannot afford to pay any more for the Pioneer program either.
 
Amen.

Mons Pubis huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429805)

Mons Pubis is this... good work troll.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mons_pubis [wikipedia.org]

Whoop! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429292)

Three cup disappearing pea [tomshardware.com] .

High Res (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429297)

The star we observed is so close to Polaris that we needed every available bit of Hubble's resolution to see it And everyone says New Year's Resolutions don't work out...

Enough of this defeatist attitude! (3, Funny)

QMO (836285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429526)

"We only have the binary stars that nature provided us"

Don't give up so easily. Make some more binary stars, instead of making excuses.

SHEESH, IDIOTS!

Not Informative (4, Funny)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429306)

"sequence of images shows that the North Star, Polaris is really a triple star system."

Damit! OK, so which star do I point my sextant at then if I'm trying to find my latitude? Modern science complicates things so much!

[Yes this is a joke, for those who don't get astronomy humour.]

Re:Not Informative (1, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429444)

"Damit! OK, so which star do I point my sextant at then if I'm trying to find my latitude? Modern science complicates things so much!"

Modern science? This is, once again, proof that the Bible is truly the word of the Lord, the Intelligent Designer, and all you heretics are condemned to burn in the fires of hell.

You think He did not Design to have the Balthazr, Melchior, and Gaspar (the Three Wise Men) follow three stars?

Bah, karma to burn today... go ahead and mod this to oblivion.

Re:Not Informative (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429867)

Modern science? This is, once again, proof that the Bible is truly the word of the Lord, the Intelligent Designer, and all you heretics are condemned to burn in the fires of hell. You think He did not Design to have the Balthazr, Melchior, and Gaspar (the Three Wise Men) follow three stars?

You laugh, but you just know some are going to take this as proof of God using the "holy trinity".

Re:Not Informative (2, Funny)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429496)

Call me a luddite but I still use an astrolabe....

Re:Not Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429665)

"Damit! OK, so which star do I point my sextant at then if I'm trying to find my latitude? "

Joke aside, you need to be able to see the horizon to use a sextant. The pole star is a not so easy since often it is too dark when it emerges. But your local geographical milage may vary.

Re:Not Informative (1)

Peeptophe (252809) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429879)

[Yes this is a joke, for those who don't get astronomy humour.]

And for those of you that do....may I recommend this [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Not Informative (1)

Evil Closet Monkey (761299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430005)

so which star do I point my sextant at then if I'm trying to find my latitude? Second star the right, and straight on till morning.

Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (3, Funny)

Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429320)

"I am as constant as the Northern Star." Always though Caesar was a little unstable and went round and round in circles....

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (1)

HappyHead (11389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429357)

From the article:
Astronomers want to determine the mass of Polaris accurately, because it is the nearest Cepheid variable star. Cepheids' brightness variations are used to measure ...
Yup, definitely a good choice of comparissons.

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429367)

Round and round...With love we'll find a way just give it time...round and round...what comes around goes around...

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (1)

BVis (267028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429601)

We need a +1 GratuitousEightiesReference moderation.

(damn, I'm old enough to recognize that)

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429374)

Constantly in the darkness, where's that at?

sorry

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (1)

Bob3141592 (225638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429487)

"I am as constant as the Northern Star." Always though Caesar was a little unstable and went round and round in circles....

"Constant in the darkness. Where's that at? If you want me, I'll be in the bar."

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (1)

Blazeix (924805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429827)

"I am as constant as the Northern Star." Hmm. Wasn't Caesar part of a triumvirate? And now the northern star is a triple star system... Seems to me this guy knew his astronomy!

Re:Looks like the Bard screwed that up... (1)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430133)

> "I am as constant as the Northern Star." Always though Caesar was a little unstable and went round and round in circles....

constantly? ;-)

kinky... (0)

verlorenModus (932967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429333)

menage a troi?

Yep. (2, Funny)

game kid (805301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429548)

It's retina-burning, hydrogen-fusing, yellow-white-hot [wikipedia.org] star-on-star-on-star action! ;)

More. (1)

Racher (34432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429338)

Another day, another star. Yet this one is important because it is the companion of Polaris? When do we get to see the edge of the universe cafe?

Re:More. (3, Informative)

hattig (47930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429361)

As the FA points out: "it is the nearest Cepheid variable star. Cepheids' brightness variations are used to measure the distances of galaxies and the expansion rate of the universe"

So quite useful in astronomy.

Re:More. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429380)

Actually I think what you actually meant was the "Restaurant at the End of the Universe". And the name refers to the temporal aspect, not locality.

Re:More. (2, Funny)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429451)

When do we get to see the edge of the universe cafe?

When Starbucks agrees to the contract negotiations.

Re:More. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429484)

Yet this one is important because it is the companion of Polaris?

Polaris has a companion because it isn't nerdy like you Mr. Slashdot.

When do we get to see the edge of the universe cafe?

When you get a companion, you can then go to the bar at the end of the Universe to party. Otherwise you're just that lamer astro-nerd sitting a two person table talking to himself. No, no one will believe that your "alien-friend" has powers that make her disappear.

Re:More. (1)

jgrana (931567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430039)

You have to put your penny into savings first. They check for that at the door, you know.

Dangit! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429343)

I was hoping for Fist of the North Star trivia!

2001 (1)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429353)

My God, it's full of stars!

More like 3521. (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430013)

My God, it's full of stars!

Are you suggesting that, in orbit around a moon of an outer planet in the Polaris system, we'll find an alien artefact which, if docked with by a human ship, will transport it instantly across half the galaxy to make contact with its creators?

Excuse me.

* ring ring. ring ring *

Ah yes. Is that New Rossyth? Excellent. Could you get me Meredith Argent on the line please? Thank you. Yes. I'll hold. Hello? Meredith? Yes. Look, can you get hold of Mic Turner at short notice? And that prototype ship you've been working on? Terrific. Might have a destination for it...

Not really "close" to the main star as we know it. (4, Informative)

Ex Machina (10710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429358)

According to google calculator:

                  2 000 000 000 miles = 21.5155818 Astronomical Units

which puts it just inside the closest approach of Saturn, but well outside Jupiter's orbit.

Re:Not really "close" to the main star as we know (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429385)

I'm amazed that Hubble can resolve two objects that close together, at such a distance, and quite distinctly too! Yes, I know they're both stars and emit light, but even so.

There's life in the old girl yet :)

And imagine what the next generation will be able to resolve, if it has improved optics over Hubble, and greater resolution.

Re:Not really "close" to the main star as we know (2, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429413)

I don't know much about astronomy, but putting it even on *that* scale makes me say, "wow, that is really, really close!"

Re:Not really "close" to the main star as we know (1)

slavemowgli (585321) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429518)

I don't know the average distance between twin stars, but considering that they're *stars*, not planets, that does seem pretty close to me.

Anyone also notice (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429554)

there seems to be a renewed set of discoveries in the Bears recently? First the midsized black-hole in Ursa Major, and now the new companion star in Ursa Minor.

Interesting. I didn't think we would find anything else in this region of the sky....

Re:Not really "close" to the main star as we know (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429694)

The closest star to ours is ~278,000 AU away. So relatively speaking, yes, 21.5 AU is indeed "close".

"Close" is a relative word... (2, Insightful)

aconkling (916504) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429761)

Yes, but Saturn is a planet of Sol (our sun); for another star to be at this distance is "close." Our nearest star is Proxima centauri [wikipedia.org] , a mere 268 000 AU away (approximately).

Re:"Close" is a relative word... (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429822)

Yes, but Saturn is a planet of Sol (our sun)

I just gotta nit pick this. "Sol" is latin for "Sun", "our sun" would be "nostrus Sol". Which is kind of redundant, because there's only one Sun... ours.

If you want to say that Sol is our star, then yeah, that works, but "our Sun" is a bit redundant.

Crap, I wanted this to be funnier... :(

Re:Not really "close" to the main star as we know (2, Informative)

tm2b (42473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429772)

Polaris A is big. Really, really big. You may think that it's a long walk...

Sorry.

But seriously, Polaris A [domeofthesky.com] is a supergiant, about 2400 times as bright as the sun, and Polaris Ab is a main sequence star. 22 AUs is really close for a couple of stars that size!

Re:Not really "close" to the main star as we know (1)

SchrodingersRoot (943800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429965)

Our nearest neighbors, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B orbit each other with a distance that varies from 11.2 AU to 35.6 AU, with Proxima Centauri (a red dwarf) as a distant companion around 13,000 AU from the pair of main stars.
It seems about on par with the A/B orbits, and we still classify the Alpha Centauri system as a triple star system.

So while I'd agree that it's not necessarily close as we know it, I'd also point out that we're rather tiny on an astronomical scale. For the record, I don't know if Alpha Centauri is representative of a typical binary system. IANA astronomer.
Or at least...not a professional one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Centauri [wikipedia.org]

ummm... (3, Insightful)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429359)

Am I the only one who doesn't think that that's very clearly a triple star from the pictures? =P The title of the article made it look like the light we see from it is actually from three really close together stars...but it seems like we're only seem polaris A, since the smaller ones are so tiny.

ASCII Picture Mirror (5, Funny)

big_groo (237634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429383)

Polaris ---> O
Polaris Ab---->.

Polaris A --------->o

Re:ASCII Picture Mirror (2, Funny)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430110)

Do you pronounce that Ab or A flat?

some questions (1)

tijmentiming (813664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429387)

I'm looking at that image right now and I wonder why the PolarisA and PolarisB stars seen as double star? As far as I see, the B star is very far away from the A star. or do they circle arround eachother?
And could it be possible that the PolarisAb star is (very FAR as well) behind the PolarisA star at this moment?

And because there is this PolarisAb star now, can't you just say the PolarisB star sucks and remove them from the triple star system? so we have still a double star, without that B-star?

Re:some questions (5, Informative)

hattig (47930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429449)

It's a triple star system if they're all rotating around a common centre of gravity, even if PolarisB seems to be quite an outsider (although on the scale they're showing it is probably still at a distance similar to a Kuiper belt object (rough guess) whilst this Ab star is at Saturn distance from A.

I suppose it is possible that Ab is behind A and thus appears further away, but I'm sure they've done their maths and checked it over a lot before releasing the PR.

Re:some questions (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429755)

whilst

Please stop using this word.

Re:some questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429538)

When you have two point-like sources, there is always a zoom level that makes them seem very far from each other.

Re:some questions (3, Informative)

hcg50a (690062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429567)

There are three stars (Polaris A, Polaris B, and Polaris Ab) in orbit around each other (in various ways). That's why it's called a triple star.

A and B are indeed very far from each other. I don't know how long the period is, but it is probably on the order of hundreds or thousands of years. The center of mass of that orbit may be well outside of Polaris A.

A and Ab are in a very close orbit, with a period of around 30 years. The center of mass of that orbit may be well inside of Polaris A.

You can say Polaris B sucks, but that won't affect it, or the triple star system at all. Polaris B is easily visible in small amateur telescopes. It makes Polaris a very pretty star to look at.

Solar Zit (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429389)

Is it just me, or does that picture make it look like Polaris just has some version of an interstellar zit? Maybe it's a boil...

Re:Solar Zit (1)

xnderxnder (626189) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429558)

It was a gummi bear

Second star inside Neptune's orbit (5, Informative)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429398)

From the article: "The companion proved to be less than two-tenths of an arcsecond from Polaris... At the system's distance of 430 light-years, that translates into a separation of about 2 billion miles."

I did a little googling, and found that Neptune's orbit is just over 2 billion miles from the Sun. So for reference, Hubble has directly imaged two distant objects that could fit inside our own solar system.

I think they could have gotten more "Oomph!" from their press release if they'd mentioned this fact. Also, they may have wanted to measure the distance in a standard publicity unit, such as roundtrip NY-LA distances ("A little over 350,000 round-trips from New York to Los Angeles").

Re:Second star inside Neptune's orbit (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429767)

I think they could have gotten more "Oomph!" from their press release if they'd mentioned this fact. Also, they may have wanted to measure the distance in a standard publicity unit, such as roundtrip NY-LA distances ("A little over 350,000 round-trips from New York to Los Angeles").

Pff! you and your NY-LA distances... My car gets two football fields to a bathtub, and that's the way I like it!

Re:Second star inside Neptune's orbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429861)

Can you convert that to Library of Congresses?

Re:Second star inside Neptune's orbit (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429826)

Also, they may have wanted to measure the distance in a standard publicity unit, such as roundtrip NY-LA distances ("A little over 350,000 round-trips from New York to Los Angeles").

I think to appreciate it, I need it in terms of "The Books of the Library of Congress laid end-to-end."

Hubble (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429409)

I know this article will devolve into a discussion of the relative pros and cons of our current space program and its priorities, but you really have to go outside at night for a few minutes in December or January when it's crystal clear and you're shivering from the cold and even near a city you can look up at those mysterious lights in the sky and get that sense of wonder, and of how small and yet how important we really are.

Re:Hubble (3, Interesting)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429744)

And what will really blow your mind is the knowledge that right at this moment, those stars are probably no longer in that configuration, if they even all still exist.

Welcome to Slashdot disinformation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14430055)

Why so? Most stars that can be seen naked-eye are in the range 4 to 1500 light-years. Stellar motion takes 100,000 years to be noticable, and those stars lifetimes are somewhere between tens of millions and tens of billions years. So considering the naked-eye stars "at this moment" doesn't change them much.

Re:Welcome to Slashdot disinformation (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430090)

Ahh, you're right. I mis-read the distance from us, which is "only" something over 400 light-years.

Re:Hubble (1)

joranbelar (567325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430177)

Of course, "at this moment" doesn't have any real meaning since you're describing something outside of our light cone, and simultinaeity doesn't really exist ;)

Re:Hubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429806)

How does it follow that we're important?

Re:Hubble (2, Insightful)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429872)

you can look up at those mysterious lights in the sky and get that sense of wonder, and of how small and yet how important we really are. (emphasis mine)

This is what sets us apart from the animals. Animals don't have that sort of ego. But I guess animals don't have the need to try to justify their existance.

Re:Hubble (1)

Kesch (943326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430035)

...and look up at those mysterious lights in the sky and get that sense of wonder, and of how small and yet how important we really are.

I live in New Mexico so I take weekly trips to Roswell to look for those mysterious lights. I don't feel much wonder though, and the few times THEY have taken me aboard THEIR ships have taught me that I am actually large compared to THEM. I do realise our importance though. THEY are out to get us and our resources as fuel for THEIR intergalactic war effort.

Now excuse me while I go clean my shotgun and polish my tin foil hat. Afterwards I'm going to go add another layer of concrete to my bunker. I don't want to hear your whining when the lights come for you and you aren't ready.

That's the magnetic pole Polaris (1)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429416)

It's just drifting south over Siberia.

Re:That's the magnetic pole Polaris (1)

tedpearson (910434) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429991)

Now that had me in stitches.

Some perspective... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429427)

TFA states that the close companion orbits at about 2 billion miles, or about 21.5 AU from the parent. That is a bit more than the orbit of Uranus (19.5 AU) in our own system. They had to stretch the Hubble to its limit to see something as bright as a STAR that was far enough away from the parent to fit most of our entire solar system inside. 490 light years is a long way away.

Gah.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429472)

That's space for ya, nothing for millions of miles, and all of sudden, three stars at once.

I doubt this a a triple star system (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429490)

Triple star systems degrade by kicking out one of the stars so the remaining two stars can settle into a stable binary system.

Likely the small nearly hidden star is similar to Jupiter.

Re:I doubt this a a triple star system (4, Informative)

hcg50a (690062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429641)

Your first comment is true in the general 3-body problem, but certain cases are actually stable over a long period of time. Namely, when two of the bodies are in a very tight orbit which is not significantly perturbed by the 3rd body.

So, the system approximates a stable two body system.

Another similar case is 4 stars, where there are two close pairs in orbit around each other. This idea can be extrapolated to any number of stars as long as each pair is not significantly perturbed by its non-pair neighbors.

Re:I doubt this a a triple star system (4, Interesting)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429705)

Where did you get this? There are many reasonably stable three-plus body systems. ("reasonably stable" meaning that they'll last the lifetime of the stars, but could still be disrupted by passing stars, etc.)

The classic example is a close binary with a distant third. The distant star essentially sees the binaries as a point. The binaries see the gravitational attraction of the third star as essentially flat (since the tidal forces drop off as 1/r^3). This doesn't mean non-zero, it just means that the attraction of the "near" star won't be higher than the attraction of the "far" star. IIRC that's why the moon is slowly pulling away from the earth -- the sun is slowly pulling the earth and the moon apart.

Another example is a pair of close binaries. Again each binary is overwhelmingly dominated by its pair, with the gravitational attraction of the other pair as essentially flat.

Re:I doubt this a a triple star system (1, Funny)

iibagod (887140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429931)

Spoken as a true geek. Maybe someday you'll be part of a stable binary pair....but I doubt it.

Mod -1, Missed Obvious Menage a Trois Remark

Of course it's not a triple star system (1)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429816)

It's actually part of an eleventy-bazillion star system called "The Milky Way", right?

Re:I doubt this a a triple star system (1)

SchrodingersRoot (943800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430127)

Obviously this aren't the case here, but there are stable multiple body gravitational systems, for example:

A system with multiple equal masses, set at the points of an equilateral polygon, and spun around the barycenter

A more complicated gravitational system, known as a Klemperer rosette, which contains "a number of heavier and lighter bodies, set out in a regular repeating pattern around a common barycenter, around which they all orbit" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klemperer_rosette [wikipedia.org] )

So while oftentimes a multiple body system is unstable, not all of them are.

Odd phrasing (2, Interesting)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429520)

"With Hubble, we've pulled the North Star's companion out of the shadows and into the spotlight."

Of course, stars are easier to see surrounded by shadow than in the glare of a spotlight. Shouldn't this say, "We've pulled the North Star's companion out of the spotlight and into the shadows?"

Tattooine! (1)

ZiakII (829432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429522)

Did anyone else think of Tattooine as soon as they saw three stars......be honest

Re:Tattooine! (1)

aconkling (916504) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429799)

Did anyone else think of Tattooine as soon as they saw three stars......be honest
No, I was too busy picking up some power converters at the Tasha station.... Seriously, get a life man.

Re:Tattooine! (1)

DaFallus (805248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430075)

You mean like a Tatooine planet [wikipedia.org] ?

A Tatooine planet is a planet that orbits more than one star. One example of a Tatooine planet is HD 188753 Ab, which orbits a triple star system in the constellation Cygnus, about 149 light-years from Earth. It was reported that Caltech astronomer Maciej Konacki referred to the new type of planets as "Tatooine planets", due to the similarity with Tatooine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars film series.

That explains it! (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429565)

No wonder I never got my orienteering merit badge!

Wait... (1)

baKanale (830108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429571)

so, which way is north again?

UP. (2, Funny)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429636)

^

|

|

|

|

The North Star: More Than Meets The Eye (5, Funny)

LightningBolt! (664763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429586)

The North Star: Robots In Disguise

Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429642)

Are there, by any chance, any signs of huge robotic beings fighting for the mastery of the galaxy?

Re:Interesting... (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429850)

Did you ever play SimEarth? I don't know how exactly I did it, but one time I managed to get a planet of robots. It was pretty cool. Little self replicating robots.

Wanna run that by me again? (1, Insightful)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429692)

You know, that part about splashing Hubble into ocean?
Stupid bastards.

Hubble is the very best thing Nasa has ever put into orbit around Earth.
Leave it the f**k alone..

Re:Wanna run that by me again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14429818)

That is, essentially, what they plan to do.

Polaris (1)

Keichann (888574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429938)

And as I writhe in my guilty agony, frantic to save the city whose peril every moment grows, and vainly striving to shake off this unnatural dream of a house of stone and brick south of a sinister swamp and a cemetary on a low hillock; the Pole Star, evil and monstrous, leers down from the black vault, winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing, save that it once had a message to convey. -- H.P. Lovecraft

no wonder I've been getting lost! (2, Funny)

peter303 (12292) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429966)

I've been following Polaris #3 instead of Polaris #1.

Oh brother. (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14429975)

I'm sure we'll be hearing from the Religious Right about this. "The Star that appeared on the eve of our Savior's birth is actually a trinity - a three-in-one! Just like Jesus! This just proves that it's true!"

Re:Oh brother. (1)

bohemian72 (898284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430205)

Yes, because of course every Religious Righter is convinced that Jesus was born at the North Pole of course! Right after his mother Mary took a wild ride on the Polar Express and received the first gift of Christmas from Santa Claus himself.

Odd Article Title... (2, Funny)

addictedavi (898607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14430131)

"More to the North Star Than Meets the Eye"

Well I'd certainly hope so, it just looks like a small white dot to me...
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