March 2019 - Double Star of the Month

During his work at Pulkovo using the 15-inch refractor to survey for new pairs, Otto Struve came across 256 wide pairs (with separations between 32" and 2', and by no means all new discoveries) which he collected an published in an Appendix catalogue. Many are rather faint and uninspiring but several are worth seeking out. One such is STTA 123 (13 27 04.7 +64 44 07.6) in Draco, found about 4 degrees preceding Thuban (alpha Dra).

The stars are given as yellowish and blue together with the description striking object in the Dover edition of Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, Volume 2. Although Sissy Haas calls both stars solid blue, Simbad gives the spectral types of both stars as F0.

Even though they are separated by 69" at position angle (PA) 145 degrees, the stars are identically distant within the errors in the parallax as determined recently by Gaia DR2 and the mean distance is 225.87 light-years with an error of 0.01 light-year. The WDS lists an additional faint companion of magnitude 12 at 95 degrees and 39".

Three and a half degrees east of the 1.8 magnitude gamma Velorum, and the same distance south of the Vela Supernova Remnant is A Velorum, although on the Cambridge Double Star Atlas (2nd edition) it appears only as HJ 4104 (08 29 04.76 -47 55 44.2).

This is a bright triple, the closer pair (AB) are magnitudes 5.5 and 7.2 and they were separated by 3".5 at PA 244 when I measured them in 2008; both quantities are slowly increasing with time. At 19" and 39 degrees (2008) is a magnitude 9.2 star.

In 1951, W. S. Finsen, using his eyepiece interferometer on the 26.5-inch refractor at Johannesburg found that the primary was double at a distance of 0".1. Recent measures have shown that this a binary of high inclination and the projected period is 340 years. If the orbit is correct the apparent separation reaches only 0".25 before falling back again.

Whilst the easily resolvable components appear to be early B stars, Ernst Hartung found the AB pair to be pale yellow. More recently, and also from Australia, Ross Gould, using 175-mm, notes only that the primary is pale yellow but confirms that the triple is embedded in an interesting field.

All three components appear to be equally distant - 1600 light years away, according to Gaia DR2.

Bob Argyle - Double Star Section Director