X-ray Binaries

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Cygnus X-1 was identified in 1971 and is one of the best stellar-mass black-hole candidates. The companion star, shown on the left in this artist's conception, is a 33 solar-mass star. Optical spectroscopy of this star revealed that it had a large radial velocity amplitude of about 50 km/sec. That, combined with a 5.6-day period inferred the mass of the compact object to be more than 15 solar masses. This is well beyond the neutron star mass limit, so we assume it to be a black hole. This artists conception of the Cyg X-1 system shows the outer layers of the companion star being stripped off and transfered via Roche lobe overflow into an accretion disk around the black hole. A torus of material is shown spiralling into the black hole. It is from the hot inner regions of this accretion disk that X-rays are produced.
Cygnus X-1 was identified in 1971 and is one of the best stellar-mass black-hole candidates. The companion star, shown on the left in this artist’s conception, is a 33 solar-mass star. Optical spectroscopy of this star revealed that it had a large radial velocity amplitude of about 50 km/sec. That, combined with a 5.6-day period inferred the mass of the compact object to be more than 15 solar masses. This is well beyond the neutron star mass limit, so we assume it to be a black hole.
This artists conception of the Cyg X-1 system shows the outer layers of the companion star being stripped off and transfered via Roche lobe overflow into an accretion disk around the black hole. A torus of material is shown spiralling into the black hole. It is from the hot inner regions of this accretion disk that X-rays are produced.

X-ray binaries are a special class of binary star system named for the x-rays they emit which have been detected by Earth and space-based telescopes specifically designed and engineered for this purpose. Believed to be composed of a normal star, much like our own Sun, and a collapsed star – white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole – near or at the end of its life cycle, X-ray binaries are often thought of as “zombie stars” feeding off the lifeblood of nearby companion stars. 

Watch this animation of an X-ray binary system, showing material flowing from a companion star to the X-ray emitting accretion disk around a compact stellar object. You’ll need to make sure you have the right software and drivers to view this amazing video. 

Read and learn more about binary stars here.

Learn more about superstar binaries like Eta Carinae.

Discover more about binary stars here.

Read and learn more specifics about X-ray binaries

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Astronomers using the Magellan Telescope are studying HD 106906 b

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Surviving space is going to be hard

Astronomy News – Planets circling twin stars close in proximity could be a real tough place for life to begin, according to the conclusions of a study conducted using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Space scientists using NASA’s infrared observatory recently found what they believe to be clouds of possible dust around three mature, close-orbiting binary stars. Dust that scientists think is possibly the result of the planets orbiting these twin stars colliding, which could make living on these planets difficult for any lifeforms that might have arisen on these planets.

Planetary collisions are possible real-life science fiction in action, as the reasons for the dust clouds are certainly a matter of conjecture and something that any science fiction writer is going to be able to spin a tale of annihilation around. Lifeforms evolving under the environmental conditions that possibly exist on planets orbiting binary stars of the particular class studied would certainly be something beyond the imagination of any human writer. It’s unlikely that anything we humans create using our imaginations could ever match the possibilities that exist in space and time. The finite imaginations of humans are limited by our senses, experiences and the limits of what we refer to as our human perception or intelligence to some.

Lifeforms evolving on these planets would have to survive possible planetary collisions at regular intervals if space scientists conclusions are correct? If they have the ability to sense the world beyond their normal lives? Lifeforms existing on these planets could be non-sentient and unable to perceive the annihilation above them. They could be looking up at annihilation coming toward them in the form of another planet, asteroid, or other celestial body orbiting the binary star systems in question. They may have been destroyed in a recent collision between planets and are space dust, once again. The view would be a spectacular one, though, with two huge suns that would exceed anything we experienced viewing the double stars systems in the Star Wars Saga.

Humans will evolve on any new planet they inhabit

Life evolving on planets circling binary stars like the ones in question would have a limited time to evolve into a space traveling sentient race as well. The suns in the binary star system they have evolved on are slowly circling closer and closer, according to astronomers, which could possibly make surviving and evolving on these planets a lot more difficult. Lifeforms surviving and thriving on these planets would likely be a survivor beyond human imagination, so we should probably thank our lucky stars that they aren’t likely to be stopping by for a visit, anytime soon.

Humans will evolve on any planet they inhabit
We have a lot of places to look for new planets suitable for human life. Guess we better get started.

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