r/science Oct 06 '22

Astronomers find a “cataclysmic” pair of stars with the shortest orbit yet: The stars circle each other every 51 minutes, confirming a decades-old prediction Astronomy


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u/JKUAN108 Oct 07 '22

Decades ago, researchers at MIT and elsewhere predicted that such cataclysmic variables should transition to ultrashort orbits. This is the first time such a transitioning system has been observed directly.


u/StabbyPants Oct 07 '22

So cataclysmic is a term of art and not puffery


u/Mzkazmi Oct 07 '22

Relevance? How is this important to us?


u/Chknbone Oct 07 '22



u/Mzkazmi Oct 07 '22

I understand that the prediction was true but regardless if the stores are close or better in a far away orbit how is this impactful ??? If they get too close and they collide and they open up a singularity or something then there’s a reason


u/Troxxies Oct 07 '22

They test stuff like this in-case they are wrong, if they were wrong they'd have to rethink the math involved and who knows we might be doing some math wrong at the moment, in which case it'd be very very impactful.


u/[deleted] Oct 07 '22

Studying the interactions of gigantic high energy objects, as well as the tiniest high energy things we can, altogether helps us understand more about physics, and how to manipulate and control everything around us. It’s thanks to physics that we have batteries and cellphones.


u/Chknbone Oct 07 '22

Does it have to be?


u/l4mbch0ps Oct 07 '22

Yah you're right. This discovery won't let you toast your toast faster, so why are they even studying it?

Thanks for the high quality contribution to the discussion.


u/Antimutt Oct 07 '22

The cataclysm takes the form of a recurring nova.


u/absreim Oct 07 '22

Understanding different fields of science, astronomy included, helps to understand the meaning of life.


u/Chknbone Oct 07 '22

Those stars must be moving at insane speeds.

I don't even know how to ask my question. How fast are they moving?


u/juxtoppose Oct 07 '22

I guess you would have to know the size of the orbit it goes round in 51min.


u/Gamebird8 Oct 07 '22

Probably a Jupiter or 2 apart. (Maybe a bit more)

Enough that they can't collapse on each other and their launch force from continual slingshotting holds them in a fixed orbit by canceling out gravity


u/GaussWanker MS | Physics Oct 07 '22

Wikipedia says 0.4 solar radius (~4 Jupiter radius)



u/its_not_you_its_ye Oct 07 '22

So, that role be 2 Jupiters, then


u/GaussWanker MS | Physics Oct 07 '22


u/yoda_jedi_council Oct 07 '22

Disappointing, I was expecting speeds akin to a pulsar surface rotation speed.


u/AutomaticJuggernaut8 Oct 07 '22

Someone should check my math but assuming each star is the size of the sun and they have 2 Jupiter's distance between their surfaces, roughly 64,000 miles per minute.


u/JoeViturbo Oct 07 '22

What I'd like to know is, could a double star solar system support orbiting planets and what kind of orbit would they have?


u/DisplacedPersons12 Oct 07 '22

i assume (with no real evidence) that at a sufficient distance the centre of mass of the two stars would be consistent enough to sustain an orbiting planet


u/Wassux Oct 07 '22

Oh for sure, they are actually more common than single star systems if I remember correctly.


u/PantsOnHead88 Oct 07 '22

At sufficient distance from the stars, it approaches being a single centre of mass, so it’s certainly possible.

Close orbits would not be long-term stable unless one star is around 2 orders of magnitude more massive than the other, and the planet orbits in the L4 or 5 Lagrange point of the less massive star.

Even in our own system the question is more like “are the orbits stable on a particular time scale?”


u/WithinFiniteDude Oct 07 '22

confirming a decades-old prediction

The prophecy?!