April 2015 - Double Star of the Month

STF1555 (11 36 17.94 +27 46 52.7) is in Ursa Major in a fairly sparse part of the constellation down by the Bear's front foot. It is perhaps most eassily found by moving 5 degrees south-east from the bright binary xi UMa (STF1523). This was an easy pair for the small aperture at discovery at 1".4 but during the next one hundred years the two stars approached each other until minimum separation of about 0".1 was reached in the 1930s and since then they have been separating. The nature of this system is a little unclear but observations over the next decade or so will show whether it is an optical pair (as classified in the WDS, or a highly inclined binary system, as suggested by Docobo in 2007 when he derived an orbit of 916 years for it. The orbit predicts star B beginning to turn back towards A with the separation slowly decreasing again. In spring 2015 B can be found at 150°, 0".67. The stars are magnitudes 6.4 and 6.8, and a third component of magnitude 11.2 which is listed as HJ 503, can be seen at 158° 22".5, both values are slowly increasing.

RMK 14 (12 14 02.71 -45 43 26.1) can also be found by reference to a nearby bright binary star. It forms an isoceles triangle of side about 5 degrees with gamma and delta Centauri to the south. Unfortunately, as of early 2015, gamma is near closest separation and needs a large aperture to resolve but RMK 14 (D Cen) is a beautiful pair which is worth searching out. The primary is a K3 giant of visual magnitude 5.8 and is also known to be a spectroscopic binary. The companion can be found at 243° and 2".7 having closed up from 4" at discovery. This is a distant pair - Hipparcos lists the parallax as 5.71 mas which, as it happens, translates to 571 light years. The colours seem to be well determined. E. J. Hartung gives orange and white whilst more recently, Richard Jaworski finds yellowish-orange and white. Sissy Haas notes it as a showcase pair.

Bob Argyle - Double Star Section Director