April 2016 - Double Star of the Month

STF 1517 (11 13 41.22 +20 07 44.9) is very easy to find. It is about 30 arc minutes south and slightly west of the 3rd magnitude delta Leonis. Found by F. G. W. Struve at Dorpat, this binary appears to be moving in an orbit which is very highly inclined. Motion is therefore mostly in separation and between 1820 and the late 1890s the stars closed from more than 1 arc second to about one-quarter of an arc second. After that the quadrant changed and they began to separate. The proper motion of the system is large enough that we can say the system is definitely physical. The USNO Sixth Orbit Catalogue gives a period of 924 years which is highly speculative as the motion has been virtually linear since discovery.

The calculated position for early 2016 is 316° and 0".71 making it a good test for 20-cm. The stars are of similar brightness but a little on the faint side (mags 7.5 and 8.0). As part of his proper motion programme, Burnham added a star of mag 10.8 at 246" and 97° but the distance is increasing rapidly due to the proper motion of 0".4 annually in the bright pair.

BU 28 (12 30 04.93 -13 23 35.0) is one of Burnham's most interesting discoveries. Its low number tells us that it was in Burnham's first list of 81 new pairs which he published in MNRAS in 1873. Burnham often underestimated the magnitude of the fainter star in very close and unequal pairs and in this case he assigned a value of 12 to the magnitude of B, calling the pair a very delicate and beautiful double star. The WDS gives 9.6 with the primary at 6.4. It is marked in the Cambridge Double Star Atlas 1st edition but without a label.

This is a pair with a period of 151 years and the separation ranges from less than 0".4 to 2".2 which, fortuitously, is where it is at present, so now is the very best opportunity to observe these stars. It is found 3 degrees due north of delta Corvi, but the low declination from the UK means that a good steady night is required. The writer has not yet looked at this system but will put it on his 'to do' list. BU 28 is 80 light years distant and moving across the sky at more than 0".25 per year. It is leaving behind two distant comites (mags 10.6 and 11.6) which are currently both 71" distant.

Bob Argyle - Double Star Section Director