November 22, 2017

Astro-Challenge: Groombridge 34; a Nearby Red Dwarf Pair!

Sure, everyone’s heard of Alpha Centauri, but have you ever heard of… Groombridge 34? We came across this little known binary red dwarf pair while perusing Burnham’s Celestial Handbook last month during our write up for M31. Also in the constellation Andromeda, Groombridge 34 is a unique system; a pair of red dwarf flare stars relatively close to our own solar system. At 11.62 light years, its the 16th closest stellar system to our own. The separation of the two stars are about 147 Astronomical units (A. U.s) (for reference, Pluto is about 50 A.U.s from the sun!) in a estimated 2,600 year orbit.

The apparent visual magnitude of the pair is +8 and +11. Groombridge 34 was discovered in 1860 due to its large proper motion, about 2.89 arc seconds annually! Groombridge 34 has also popped up in science fiction occasionally, such as the Space:Above and Beyond series, were it played host to the largest USMC fleet base outside of the solar system. If you’ve got a telescope and are looking for an off-beat target, do give this unique pairing a look!

The astro-term for the week is Flare Star. Small red dwarf stars like Groombridge 34 are anything but tame; these stars throw periodic tantrums thought to be caused by massive magnetic reconnection events on their surface and are thus prone to ejecting massive flares. Such events likely sterilize any planets nearby; if life does flourish around flare stars, it is vastly different than life here. Of course, its been pointed out that the habitability zone around a red dwarf would be much broader than our own solar system… Groombridge A and B have their own variable designations as GX Andromedae and GQ Andromedae. Like white dwarfs, red dwarfs have extremely long life spans, in the order of trillions of years, again, older than the present age of the universe!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] the naked eye. We’ve written about other red dwarfs in the range of a backyard telescope, such as Groombridge 34 & Omicron Eridani; this week, we’d like to turn your attention to a curious specimen in the [...]

  2. [...] Groombridge 34: Located less than a degree from the +6th magnitude star 26 Andromedae in the general region of the famous galaxy M31, Groombridge 34 was discovered back in 1860 and has a large proper motion of 2.9″ arc seconds per year. [...]

  3. [...] Groombridge 34: Located less than a degree from the +6th magnitude star 26 Andromedae in the general region of the famous galaxy M31, Groombridge 34 was discovered back in 1860 and has a large proper motion of 2.9″ arc seconds per year. Locating Groombridge 34. Created using Stellarium. [...]

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