eclipsing binary

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Related to Eclipsing binaries: Binary star system
Schematic of orbits and light curve of eclipsing binaryclick for a larger image
Schematic of orbits and light curve of eclipsing binary

eclipsing binary

A binary star whose orbital plane is orientated such that each component is totally or partly eclipsed by the other during each orbital period. The effect observed is a periodic decrease in the light from the system (see illustration). The deeper minimum corresponds to the eclipse of the brighter star. The light curve gives the period of revolution, and from the depths and shapes of the minima it is possible to estimate the inclination of the orbital plane. The duration of the eclipses compared to the time between eclipses indicates the radii of the stars in terms of the distance between them. If the system is also a double-lined spectroscopic binary the individual masses and radii of the stars can be calculated.

Eclipsing binaries tend to be composed of large stars with small orbits and therefore the majority are close binaries (see binary star). In these systems mass transfer affects the stars' evolution, leading to three main classes of eclipsing binaries. W Ursae Majoris stars are in contact. In W Serpentis stars one component is transferring mass rapidly to the other. In these two classes the stars are distorted into ellipsoids, an effect that shows in the light curve. Algol variables represent a later stage; mass transfer is almost complete and the stars are nearly spherical.

eclipsing binary

[i′klips·iŋ′bī‚nər·ē]
References in periodicals archive ?
Checking novae, supernovae, eclipsing binaries, Wolf-Rayet stars and re-classification of bright red variables are areas being followed, and pro-am initiatives involve development of a database of spectra (not only of variable stars), and support of professional observing campaigns.
Professional level measurements of eclipsing binaries are well within the reach of amateur astronomers.
The All Sky Automatic Survey (ASAS) provides a database of over 5 000 eclipsing binaries stars, most of which have never been recognized before.
We hope that the EB Handbook will encourage many more people to become observers of eclipsing binaries.
Kenneth Osborne Wright born; a Canadian astrophysicist; worked at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory; studied stellar atmospheres and eclipsing binaries.
Eclipsing binaries are observed in order to make estimates of mid-eclipse, which then enable a calculation of the current period of the system.
Eclipsing binaries are ideal objects for those starting out in variable star measurements.