Olson, Edward C. Department of Astronomy, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Types of binary systems
- Stellar evolution
- Cataclysmic binaries
- High-energy close binaries
- Frequency and origin of multiple systems
- Extrasolar planetary systems
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Two stars held together by their mutual gravitational attraction in a permanent (or long-term) association. The stellar universe is hierarchical. Stars exist singly and in binary pairs, multiple systems, and clusters. On large scales, roughly 105 light-years, astronomical objects congregate into galaxies. In fact, most stars are in binary systems. The Sun, with its collection of planets, is an exception. Stars in binaries revolve around their common center of mass (which itself moves through space). This star-star gravitational interaction makes possible the measurement of stellar masses and other basic properties. Stellar evolution in some binary systems can lead to spectacularly energetic activity. See also: Galaxy, external; Milky Way Galaxy; Solar system; Star clusters
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