Star system

A star system or stellar system is a small number of stars that orbit each other,[1] bound by gravitational attraction. A large number of stars bound by gravitation is generally called a star cluster or galaxy, although, broadly speaking, they are also star systems. Star systems are not to be confused with planetary systems, which include planets and similar bodies [such as comets.]

A star system of two stars is known as a binary star, binary star system or physical double star. If there are no tidal effects, no perturbation from other forces, and no transfer of mass from one star to the other, such a system is stable, and both stars will trace out an elliptic orbit around the barycenter of the system indefinitely. (See Two-body problem). Examples of binary systems are Sirius, Procyon and Cygnus X-1, the last of which probably consists of a star and a black hole.

A multiple star system consists of three or more stars that appear from Earth to be close to one another in the sky. This may result from the stars actually being physically close and gravitationally bound to each other, in which case it is a physical multiple star, or this closeness may be merely apparent, in which case it is an optical multiple star (meaning that the stars may appear to be close to each other when viewed from planet Earth, as they both seem to occupy the same point in the sky, but in reality, one star may be much further away from Earth than the other, which is not readily apparent unless one can view them from a different angle). Physical multiple stars are also commonly called multiple stars or multiple star systems.[2][3][4][5][6]

Most multiple star systems are triple stars. Systems with four or more components are less likely to occur.[5] Multiple-star systems are called triple, trinary or ternary if they contain three stars; quadruple or quaternary if they contain four stars; quintuple or quintenary with five stars; sextuple or sextenary with six stars; septuple or septenary with seven stars. These systems are smaller than open star clusters, which have more complex dynamics and typically have from 100 to 1,000 stars.[7] Most multiple star systems known are triple; for higher multiplicities, the number of known systems with a given multiplicity decreases exponentially with multiplicity.[8] For example, in the 1999 revision of Tokovinin's catalog[3] of physical multiple stars, 551 out of the 728 systems described are triple. However, because of selection effects, knowledge of these statistics is very incomplete.[9]

Multiple-star systems can be divided into two main dynamical classes: hierarchical systems which are stable and consist of nested orbits that don't interact much and so each level of the hierarchy can be treated as a Two-body problem, or the trapezia which have unstable strongly interacting orbits and are modelled as an n-body problem, exhibiting chaotic behavior.[10]

Algol triple star system imaged with the CHARA interferometer
Algol AB movie imaged with the CHARA interferometer - labeled
HD188753 orbit
  • Top: The Algol three-star system imaged in the near-infrared by the CHARA interferometer with 0.5 mas resolution in 2009. The shape of Algol C is an artifact.
  • Bottom-left: Algol A is being regularly eclipsed by the dimmer Algol B every 2.87 days. (Imaged in the H-band by the CHARA interferometer. Sudden jumps in the animation are artifacts.)
  • Bottom-right: Artist's impression of the orbits of HD 188753, a triple star system.

Hierarchical systems

Smoke ring for a halo
Star system named DI Cha. While only two stars are apparent, it is actually a quadruple system containing two sets of binary stars.[11]

Most multiple-star systems are organized in what is called a hierarchical system: the stars in the system can be divided into two smaller groups, each of which traverses a larger orbit around the system's center of mass. Each of these smaller groups must also be hierarchical, which means that they must be divided into smaller subgroups which themselves are hierarchical, and so on.[12] Each level of the hierarchy can be treated as a two-body problem by considering close pairs as if they were a single star. In these systems there is little interaction between the orbits and the stars' motion will continue to approximate stable[5][13] Keplerian orbits around the system's center of mass,[14] unlike the unstable trapezia systems or the even more complex dynamics of the large number of stars in star clusters and galaxies.

Triple star systems

In a physical triple star system, each star orbits the center of mass of the system. Usually, two of the stars form a close binary system, and the third orbits this pair at a distance much larger than that of the binary orbit. This arrangement is called hierarchical.[15][16] The reason for this is that if the inner and outer orbits are comparable in size, the system may become dynamically unstable, leading to a star being ejected from the system.[17] Triple stars that are not all gravitationally bound might comprise a physical binary and an optical companion, such as Beta Cephei, or rarely, a purely optical triple star, such as Gamma Serpentis.

Higher multiplicities

Mobile diagrams:
  1. multiplex
  2. simplex, binary system
  3. simplex, triple system
  4. simplex, quadruple system, hierarchy 2
  5. simplex, quadruple system, hierarchy 3;
  6. simplex, quintuple system, hierarchy 4.

Hierarchical multiple star systems with more than three stars can produce a number of more complicated arrangements, which can be illustrated by what Evans (1968) has called a mobile diagram. These are similar to ornamental mobiles hung from the ceiling. Some examples can be seen in the figure to the right. Each level of the diagram illustrates the decomposition of the system into two or more systems with smaller size. Evans calls a diagram multiplex if there is a node with more than two children, i.e. if the decomposition of some subsystem involves two or more orbits with comparable size. Because, as we have already seen for triple stars, this may be unstable, multiple stars are expected to be simplex, meaning that at each level there are exactly two children. Evans calls the number of levels in the diagram its hierarchy.[18]

  • A simplex diagram of hierarchy 1, as in (b), describes a binary system.
  • A simplex diagram of hierarchy 2 may describe a triple system, as in (c), or a quadruple system, as in (d).
  • A simplex diagram of hierarchy 3 may describe a system with anywhere from four to eight components. The mobile diagram in (e) shows an example of a quadruple system with hierarchy 3, consisting of a single distant component orbiting a close binary system, with one of the components of the close binary being an even closer binary.
  • A real example of a system with hierarchy 3 is Castor, also known as Alpha Geminorum or α Gem. It consists of what appears to be a visual binary star which, upon closer inspection, can be seen to consist of two spectroscopic binary stars. By itself, this would be a quadruple hierarchy 2 system as in (d), but it is orbited by a fainter more distant component, which is also a close red dwarf binary. This forms a sextuple system of hierarchy 3.[19]
  • The maximum hierarchy occurring in A. A. Tokovinin's Multiple Star Catalogue, as of 1999, is 4.[20] For example, the stars Gliese 644A and Gliese 644B form what appears to be a close visual binary star; because Gliese 644B is a spectroscopic binary, this is actually a triple system. The triple system has the more distant visual companion Gliese 643 and the still more distant visual companion Gliese 644C, which, because of their common motion with Gliese 644AB, are thought to be gravitationally bound to the triple system. This forms a quintuple system whose mobile diagram would be the diagram of level 4 appearing in (f).;[21]

Higher hierarchies are also possible.[16][22] Most of these higher hierarchies either are stable or suffer from internal perturbations.[23][24][25] Others consider complex multiple stars will in time theoretically disintegrate into less complex multiple stars, like more common observed triples or quadruples are possible.[26][27]


Trapezia are usually very young, unstable systems. These are thought to form in stellar nurseries, and quickly fragment into stable multiple stars, which in the process may eject components as galactic high-velocity stars.[28][29] They are named after the multiple star system known as the Trapezium Cluster in the heart of the Orion Nebula.[28] Such systems are not rare, and commonly appear close to or within bright nebulae. These stars have no standard hierarchical arrangements, but compete for stable orbits. This relationship is called interplay.[30] Such stars eventually settle down to a close binary with a distant companion, with the other star(s) previously in the system ejected into interstellar space at high velocities.[30] Example of such events may explain the runaway stars that might have been ejected during a collision of two binary star groups or a multiple system. This event is credited with ejecting AE Aurigae, Mu Columbae and 53 Arietis at above 200 km·s−1 and has been traced to the Trapezium cluster in the Orion Nebula some two million years ago.[31][32]

Designations and nomenclature

Multiple star designations

The components of multiple stars can be specified by appending the suffixes A, B, C, etc., to the system's designation. Suffixes such as AB may be used to denote the pair consisting of A and B. The sequence of letters B, C, etc. may be assigned in order of separation from the component A.[33][34] Components discovered close to an already known component may be assigned suffixes such as Aa, Ba, and so forth.[34]

Nomenclature in the Multiple Star Catalogue

Subsystem notation in Tokovinin's Multiple Star Catalogue

A. A. Tokovinin's Multiple Star Catalogue uses a system in which each subsystem in a mobile diagram is encoded by a sequence of digits. In the mobile diagram (d) above, for example, the widest system would be given the number 1, while the subsystem containing its primary component would be numbered 11 and the subsystem containing its secondary component would be numbered 12. Subsystems which would appear below this in the mobile diagram will be given numbers with three, four, or more digits. When describing a non-hierarchical system by this method, the same subsystem number will be used more than once; for example, a system with three visual components, A, B, and C, no two of which can be grouped into a subsystem, would have two subsystems numbered 1 denoting the two binaries AB and AC. In this case, if B and C were subsequently resolved into binaries, they would be given the subsystem numbers 12 and 13.[35]

Future multiple star system nomenclature

The current nomenclature for double and multiple stars can cause confusion as binary stars discovered in different ways are given different designations (for example, discoverer designations for visual binary stars and variable star designations for eclipsing binary stars), and, worse, component letters may be assigned differently by different authors, so that, for example, one person's A can be another's C.[36] Discussion starting in 1999 resulted in four proposed schemes to address this problem:[36]

  • KoMa, a hierarchical scheme using upper- and lower-case letters and Arabic and Roman numerals;
  • The Urban/Corbin Designation Method, a hierarchical numeric scheme similar to the Dewey Decimal Classification system;[37]
  • The Sequential Designation Method, a non-hierarchical scheme in which components and subsystems are assigned numbers in order of discovery;[38] and
  • WMC, the Washington Multiplicity Catalog, a hierarchical scheme in which the suffixes used in the Washington Double Star Catalog are extended with additional suffixed letters and numbers.

For a designation system, identifying the hierarchy within the system has the advantage that it makes identifying subsystems and computing their properties easier. However, it causes problems when new components are discovered at a level above or intermediate to the existing hierarchy. In this case, part of the hierarchy will shift inwards. Components which are found to be nonexistent, or are later reassigned to a different subsystem, also cause problems.[39][40]

During the 24th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in 2000, the WMC scheme was endorsed and it was resolved by Commissions 5, 8, 26, 42, and 45 that it should be expanded into a usable uniform designation scheme.[36] A sample of a catalog using the WMC scheme, covering half an hour of right ascension, was later prepared.[41] The issue was discussed again at the 25th General Assembly in 2003, and it was again resolved by commissions 5, 8, 26, 42, and 45, as well as the Working Group on Interferometry, that the WMC scheme should be expanded and further developed.[42]

The sample WMC is hierarchically organized; the hierarchy used is based on observed orbital periods or separations. Since it contains many visual double stars, which may be optical rather than physical, this hierarchy may be only apparent. It uses upper-case letters (A, B, ...) for the first level of the hierarchy, lower-case letters (a, b, ...) for the second level, and numbers (1, 2, ...) for the third. Subsequent levels would use alternating lower-case letters and numbers, but no examples of this were found in the sample.[36]



Sirius A and B Hubble photo
Sirius A (center), with its white dwarf companion, Sirius B (lower left) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.


  • Alpha Centauri is a triple star composed of a main binary yellow dwarf pair (Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B), and an outlying red dwarf, Proxima Centauri. Both A and B form a physical binary star, designated as Alpha Centauri AB, α Cen AB, or RHD 1 AB, where the AB denotes this is a binary system.[43] The moderately eccentric orbit of the binary can make the components be as close as 11 AU or as far away as 36 AU. Proxima Centauri, also (though less frequently) called Alpha Centauri C, is much further away (between 4300 and 13,000 AU) from α Cen AB, and orbits the central pair with a period of 547000(+66000/-40000) years.[44]
  • Polaris or Alpha Ursae Minoris (α UMi), the north star, is a triple star system in which the closer companion star is extremely close to the main star—so close that it was only known from its gravitational tug on Polaris A (α UMi A) until it was imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006.
  • Gliese 667 is a triple star system with two K-type main sequence stars and a red dwarf. The potentially habitable "super-Earth" Gliese 667Cc orbits the red dwarf.
  • HD 188753 is a triple star system located approximately 149 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is composed of HD 188753A, a yellow dwarf; HD 188753B, an orange dwarf; and HD 188753C, a red dwarf. B and C orbit each other every 156 days, and, as a group, orbit A every 25.7 years.[45]
  • Fomalhaut (α PsA, α Piscis Austrini) is a triple star system in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. It was discovered to be a triple system in 2013, when the K type flare star TW Piscis Austrini and the red dwarf LP 876-10 were all confirmed to share proper motion through space. The primary has a massive dust disk similar to that of the early Solar System, but much more massive. It also contains a gas giant, Fomalhaut b. That same year, the tertiary star, LP 876-10 was also confirmed to house a dust disk.
  • HD 181068 is a unique triple system, consisting of a red giant and two main-sequence stars. The orbits of the stars are oriented in such a way that all three stars eclipse each other.


HD 98800
HD 98800 is a quadruple star system located in the TW Hydrae association.




See also


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External links

Individual specimens

Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri (Latinized from α Centauri, abbreviated Alpha Cen or α Cen) is the closest star system and closest planetary system to the Solar System at 4.37 light-years (1.34 pc) from the Sun. It is a triple star system, consisting of three stars: α Centauri A (officially Rigil Kentaurus), α Centauri B (officially Toliman), and α Centauri C (officially Proxima Centauri).Alpha Centauri A and B are Sun-like stars (Class G and K), and together they form the binary star Alpha Centauri AB. To the naked eye, the two main components appear to be a single star with an apparent magnitude of −0.27, forming the brightest star in the southern constellation of Centaurus and the third-brightest in the night sky, outshone only by Sirius and Canopus.

Alpha Centauri A has 1.1 times the mass and 1.519 times the luminosity of the Sun, while Alpha Centauri B is smaller and cooler, at 0.907 times the Sun's mass and 0.445 times its luminosity. The pair orbit about a common centre with an orbital period of 79.91 years. Their elliptical orbit is eccentric, so that the distance between A and B varies from 35.6 astronomical units (AU), or about the distance between Pluto and the Sun, to that between Saturn and the Sun (11.2 AU).

Alpha Centauri C, or Proxima Centauri, is a small and faint red dwarf (Class M). Though not visible to the naked eye, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun at a distance of 4.24 light-years (1.30 pc), slightly closer than Alpha Centauri AB. Currently, the distance between Proxima Centauri and Alpha Centauri AB is about 13,000 astronomical units (0.21 ly), equivalent to about 430 times the radius of Neptune's orbit. Proxima Centauri b is an Earth-sized exoplanet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri; it was discovered in 2016.

Binary star

A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common barycenter. Systems of two or more stars are called multiple star systems. These systems, especially when more distant, often appear to the unaided eye as a single point of light, and are then revealed as multiple by other means. Research over the last two centuries suggests that half or more of visible stars are part of multiple star systems.The term double star is often used synonymously with binary star; however, double star can also mean optical double star. Optical doubles are so called because the two stars appear close together in the sky as seen from the Earth; they are almost on the same line of sight. Nevertheless, their "doubleness" depends only on this optical effect; the stars themselves are distant from one another and share no physical connection. A double star can be revealed as optical by means of differences in their parallax measurements, proper motions, or radial velocities. Most known double stars have not been studied adequately to determine whether they are optical doubles or doubles physically bound through gravitation into a multiple star system.

Binary star systems are very important in astrophysics because calculations of their orbits allow the masses of their component stars to be directly determined, which in turn allows other stellar parameters, such as radius and density, to be indirectly estimated. This also determines an empirical mass-luminosity relationship (MLR) from which the masses of single stars can be estimated.

Binary stars are often detected optically, in which case they are called visual binaries. Many visual binaries have long orbital periods of several centuries or millennia and therefore have orbits which are uncertain or poorly known. They may also be detected by indirect techniques, such as spectroscopy (spectroscopic binaries) or astrometry (astrometric binaries). If a binary star happens to orbit in a plane along our line of sight, its components will eclipse and transit each other; these pairs are called eclipsing binaries, or, as they are detected by their changes in brightness during eclipses and transits, photometric binaries.

If components in binary star systems are close enough they can gravitationally distort their mutual outer stellar atmospheres. In some cases, these close binary systems can exchange mass, which may bring their evolution to stages that single stars cannot attain. Examples of binaries are Sirius, and Cygnus X-1 (Cygnus X-1 being a well-known black hole). Binary stars are also common as the nuclei of many planetary nebulae, and are the progenitors of both novae and type Ia supernovae.

Cataclysmic variable star

Cataclysmic variable stars (CV) are stars which irregularly increase in brightness by a large factor, then drop back down to a quiescent state. They were initially called novae, from the Latin 'new', since ones with an outburst brightness visible to the naked eye and an invisible quiescent brightness appeared as new stars in the sky.

Cataclysmic variable stars are binary stars that consist of two components; a white dwarf primary, and a mass transferring secondary. The stars are so close to each other that the gravity of the white dwarf distorts the secondary, and the white dwarf accretes matter from the companion. Therefore, the secondary is often referred to as the donor star. The infalling matter, which is usually rich in hydrogen, forms in most cases an accretion disk around the white dwarf. Strong UV and X-ray emission is often seen from the accretion disc, powered by the loss of gravitational potential energy from the infalling material.

Material at the inner edge of disc falls onto the surface of the white dwarf primary. A classical nova outburst occurs when the density and temperature at the bottom of the accumulated hydrogen layer rise high enough to ignite runaway hydrogen fusion reactions, which rapidly convert the hydrogen layer to helium. If the accretion process continues long enough to bring the white dwarf close to the Chandrasekhar limit, the increasing interior density may ignite runaway carbon fusion and trigger a Type Ia supernova explosion, which would completely destroy the white dwarf.

The accretion disc may be prone to an instability leading to dwarf nova outbursts, when the outer portion of the disc changes from a cool, dull mode to a hotter, brighter mode for a time, before reverting to the cool mode. Dwarf novae can recur on a timescale of days to decades.

Catalog of Nearby Habitable Systems

The Catalog of Nearby Habitable Systems (HabCat) is a catalogue of star systems which conceivably have habitable planets. The list was developed by scientists Jill Tarter and Margaret Turnbull under the auspices of Project Phoenix, a part of SETI.

The list was based upon the Hipparcos Catalogue (which has 118,218 stars) by filtering on a wide range of star system features. The current list contains 17,129 "HabStars".

EZ Aquarii

EZ Aquarii is a triple star system approximately 11.3 ly (3.5 pc) from the Sun in the constellation Aquarius. It is also known as Luyten 789-6 and Gliese 866 and all three components are M-type red dwarfs. The pair EZ Aquarii AC form a spectroscopic binary with a 3.8-day orbit and a 0.03 AU separation. This pair share an orbit with EZ Aquarii B that has an 823-day period. The A and B components of Luyten 789-6 together emit X-rays.The configuration of the inner binary pair may permit a circumbinary planet to orbit near their habitable zone. EZ Aquarii is approaching the Solar System and, in about 32,300 years, will be at its minimal distance of about 8.2 ly (2.5 pc) from the Sun. The ChView simulation shows that currently its nearest neighbouring star is Lacaille 9352 at about 4.1 ly (1.3 pc) from EZ Aquarii.


An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer. This alignment of three celestial objects is known as a syzygy. Apart from syzygy, the term eclipse is also used when a spacecraft reaches a position where it can observe two celestial bodies so aligned. An eclipse is the result of either an occultation (completely hidden) or a transit (partially hidden).

The term eclipse is most often used to describe either a solar eclipse, when the Moon's shadow crosses the Earth's surface, or a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow. However, it can also refer to such events beyond the Earth–Moon system: for example, a planet moving into the shadow cast by one of its moons, a moon passing into the shadow cast by its host planet, or a moon passing into the shadow of another moon. A binary star system can also produce eclipses if the plane of the orbit of its constituent stars intersects the observer's position.

For the special cases of solar and lunar eclipses, these only happen during an "eclipse season", the two times of each year when the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun crosses with the plane of the Moon's orbit around the Earth. The type of solar eclipse that happens during each season (whether total, annular, hybrid, or partial) depends on apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon. If the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, and the Moon's orbit around the Earth were both in the same plane with each other, then eclipses would happen each and every month. There would be a lunar eclipse at every full moon, and a solar eclipse at every new moon. And if both orbits were perfectly circular, then each solar eclipse would be the same type every month. It is because of the non-planar and non-circular differences that eclipses are not a common event. Lunar eclipses can be viewed from the entire nightside half of the Earth. But solar eclipses, particularly total eclipses occurring at any one particular point on the Earth's surface, are very rare events that can be many decades apart.

Groombridge 34

Groombridge 34 is a binary star system in the northern constellation of Andromeda. It was listed as entry number 34 in A Catalogue of Circumpolar Stars, published posthumously in 1838 by British astronomer Stephen Groombridge. Based upon parallax measurements taken by the Gaia spacecraft, the system is located about 11.6 light-years from the Sun. This positions the pair among the nearest stars to the Solar System.

Both components are small, dim red dwarf stars that are too faint to be seen with the naked eye. They orbit around their common barycenter in a nearly circular orbit with a separation of about 147 AU and a period of around 2,600 years. Both stars exhibit random variation in luminosity due to flares and they have been given variable star designations: the brighter member Groombridge 34 A is designated GX And, while the smaller component is designated GQ And.The star system has a relatively high proper motion of 2.9 arc seconds per year, and is moving away from the Solar System at a velocity of 11.6 km/s. It achieved perihelion some 15,000 years ago when it came within 11 ly (3.5 pc) of the Sun.

Hulse–Taylor binary

PSR B1913+16 (also known as PSR J1915+1606, PSR 1913+16, and the Hulse–Taylor binary after its discoverers) is a pulsar (a radiating neutron star) which together with another neutron star is in orbit around a common center of mass, thus forming a binary star system. PSR 1913+16 was the first binary pulsar to be discovered. It was discovered by Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr., of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1974. Their discovery of the system and analysis of it earned them the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation."

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the planetary system type,

the star type,and others.

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Luyten 726-8

Luyten 726-8, also known as Gliese 65, is a binary star system that is one of Earth's nearest neighbors, at about 8.7 light years from Earth in the constellation Cetus. Luyten 726-8B is also known under the variable star designation UV Ceti, being the archetype for the class of flare stars.

NGC 30

NGC 30 is a double star system (K4 and F5(?)) in Pegasus constellation. It was recorded only once by German astronomer Albert Marth on October 30, 1864.

Despite their apparent proximity, the stars are physically unrelated, with the brighter being 1107±14 light-years from the Sun, and the dimmer being 4888±131 light-years from the Sun.

Osamu Tezuka's Star System

Over the course of his career, Osamu Tezuka reused the same characters in different roles in different stories. The way that Tezuka used the characters in his "star system" can be seen as somewhat analogous to a film director frequently casting members of a regular "stable" of actors in different roles. For instance, the "actor" Shunsaku Ban or Shunsuke Ban, who played the detective in Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, as well as played Astro Boy's teacher in Astro Boy. Tezuka jokingly made a list of how much they were paid and based them on famous western actors in his time.Because numerous kanji all have the same pronunciations in Japanese, characters' names are usually phonetically identical but written with different kanji from story to story.


PH1b (standing for "Planet Hunters 1"), or by its NASA designation Kepler-64b, is an extrasolar planet found in a circumbinary orbit in the quadruple star system Kepler-64. The planet was discovered by two amateur astronomers from the Planet Hunters project of amateur astronomers using data from the Kepler space telescope with assistance of a Yale University team of international astronomers. The discovery was announced on 15 October 2012. It is the first known transiting planet in a quadruple star system, first known circumbinary planet in a quadruple star system, and the first planet in a quadruple star system found. It was the first confirmed planet discovered by An independent and nearly simultaneous detection was also reported from a revision of Kepler space telescope data using a transit detection algorithm.


A starship, starcraft or interstellar spacecraft is a theoretical spacecraft designed for traveling between planetary systems, as opposed to an aerospace-vehicle designed for orbital spaceflight or interplanetary travel.

The term is mostly found in science fiction, because such craft is not known to have ever been constructed. Reference to a "star-ship" appears as early as 1882 in Oahspe: A New Bible.Whilst the Voyager and Pioneer probes have travelled into local interstellar space, the purpose of these uncrewed craft was specifically interplanetary and they are not predicted to reach another star system (although Voyager 1 will travel to within 1.7 light years of Gliese 445 in approximately 40,000 years.) Several preliminary designs for starships have been undertaken through exploratory engineering, using feasibility studies with modern technology or technology thought likely to be available in the near future.

In April 2016, scientists announced Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

On November 8, 2018, Elon Musk announced that SpaceX was renaming the Big Falcon Rocket, a fully reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft system, to Starship. Though the spacecraft will not possess any reasonable interstellar capability, Musk defended the name by claiming that "later versions will."

Struve 2398

Struve 2398 (Gliese 725) is a binary star system in the northern constellation of Draco. Struve 2398 is star number 2398 in the Struve Double Star Catalog of Baltic-German astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve. The astronomer's surname, and hence the star identifier, is sometimes indicated by a Greek sigma, Σ. Although the components are too faint to be viewed with the naked eye, this star system is among the closest to the Sun. Parallax measurements by the Hipparcos spacecraft give them an estimated distance of about 11.6 light years away.Both stars are small red dwarfs, with each having around a third the Sun's mass and radius. They each display the type of variability common to flare stars, and their active surfaces are sources of X-ray emission. The orbital period for the pair is about 295 years, with an average distance of about 56 astronomical units, and the eccentricity of their orbit is 0.70.

The pair has a relatively high proper motion of 2.2 arc seconds per year. The system is on an orbit through the Milky Way that has an eccentricity of 0.05, carrying them as close as 8 kpc and as far as 9 kpc from the Galactic Center. The plane of their galactic orbit carries them as far as 463−489 pc away from the galactic plane.

Wolf 424

Wolf 424 is a binary star system comprising two red dwarf stars at a distance of approximately 14.2 light years from the Sun. It is located in the constellation Virgo, between the stars ε Virginis and ο Virginis.

The close binary nature of this star was discovered by Dutch American astronomer Dirk Reuyl in 1941, based upon an elongation of the star found in photographs. The two stars in the Wolf 424 system orbit about each other with a semi-major axis of 4.1 AU and an eccentricity of 0.3. The stars have an orbital period of 15.5 years and have a combined apparent magnitude of about 12.5.

Wolf 424A is a cool main sequence red dwarf star of approximately 0.14 solar masses (147 Jupiters) and a radius of 0.17 solar radii. Its companion, Wolf 424B, is a cool main sequence red dwarf star of approximately 0.13 solar masses (136 Jupiters) and a radius of 0.14 solar radii. They are two of the dimmest known objects within 15 light years of the Sun. In 1967, it was discovered that both are flare stars that undergo random increases in luminosity. The system has been designated FL Virginis, and may experience sunspot activity. The stars may undergo variation in the level of flare activity over periods lasting several years.

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