October 2015 - Double Star of the Month

STF 2816 (21 38 57.62 +57 29 20.5) which sits within the cluster Trumpler 37 (and the HII region IC 1396) and is a multiple star with three stars visible to the small aperture.

AC are stars of magnitudes 5.7 and 7.5 separated by 12" in PA 120 and with little motion visible. The primary is a very hot star of spectral type O6f. Some 20" away in PA 338 is a further star (D) of magnitude 7.8. This in turn has a 13.2 mag comes at 351 degs and 55". In 1889, using the Lick 36-inch refractor, S. W. Burnham added a 13.3 star to A at a distance of 1".7. At the highest angular resolutions A is double again with a companion at a distance of 0".1 and it is also a double-lined spectroscopic binary with a period of 3.7 days so it seems likely that this is a very close triple.

For the binocular user, the stars that make up the wide pair of pi1 and pi2 Gruis make a splendid sight. They lie about halfway between alpha and beta Gruis and a degree north of that line.

The brighter of the two is pi1 Gru (22 22 44.2 -45 56 52.61) at V = 5.62. This is a F3 star which is a giant or sub-giant and which has a large annual proper motion. Its distance is correspondly small - 130 light years. Some 269" east and slightly north is pi2 at V = 6.55 but extremely red in colour. It is a member of the rare spectral class S and has a (B - V) index of 2.1. Looking at it on the POSS images it appears slightly brighter than pi1 but when the 2MASS survey image is examined, its overwhelmingly bright image practically obliterates that of its companion.

Both stars are double and both were discovered by Robert Innes. Pi1 is I 135 - the companion is a GO dwarf, magnitude 10.7, distant 2".5 in PA 200, although observations of the system with VLTI show a spiral-shaped arc of emission which may be due to orbital motion of this dwarf and indicates the possibility of a third star, much closer in with a period of less than 10 years. Pi2 is I 382 where the 11.4 mag companion has moved from a separation of 4".6 to 11" over the course of a century, due to the large motion of A.

Bob Argyle - Double Star Section Director