Stranger than fiction

| January 14, 2008

When a science fiction author postulates some bizarre astronomical or planetary configuration, hordes of fans (and not a few scientists) will tsk-tsk, saying that such a system could never possibly exist.

And then there’s this:

A quartet of stars has been discovered in an intimate cosmic dance, swirling around each other within a region about the same as Jupiter’s orbit around the sun…

At the time of the observations, two of the stars were orbiting each other at 300,000 mph (483,000 kilometers per hour), taking under five days to complete an orbit. The other couple had an orbit speed of 120,000 miles per hour (193,000 kilometers per hour) and takes about 55 days for a complete jaunt around their common gravitational midpoint in space.

The first pair has an orbit radius of at most .06 astronomical units (AU), where one AU is the average distance between Earth and the sun. The second pair has a maximum radius of .26 AU.

The two pairs also promenade each other in less than nine years with a maximum radius of just 5.8 AU. Jupiter, to compare, is 5.2 AU from the sun.

Who would have had the nerve to make up something like that? Once again, reality exceeds our own imagination.  ..bruce w..

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Category: Main, Science, Space

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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