Thursday, 5 July 2012

UKIRT discovers "impossible" binary stars

Artist's impression of the two red dwarfs orbiting each other (credit: J. Pinfield, for the RoPACS network).

Despite facing closure UKIRT continues to produce superb scientific discoveries. In this case a pair of red dwarfs with impossibly tight orbits.

`"To our complete surprise, we found several red dwarf binaries with orbital periods significantly shorter than the 5 hour cut-off found for Sun-like stars, something previously thought to be impossible", said Bas Nefs from Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, lead author of the paper. "It means that we have to rethink how these close-in binaries form and evolve."

Since stars shrink in size early in their lifetime, the fact that these very tight binaries exist means that their orbits must also have shrunk as well since their birth, otherwise the stars would have been in contact early on and have merged. However, it is not at all clear how these orbits could have shrunk by so much.'

For more, see the full RAS press release.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

I'm so pathetic

I haven't taken my camera with me, so this is Dam Square photographed by someone else. I'm staying just to the right in a quirky but very nice hotel. The smell of cannabis on the street outside reminds me of my student days but I have yet to find a city quite like this. It's just brilliant - countless restaurants and bars all within walking distance and an opportunity to forget all the crap that's going on right now.

Then again I have to give a talk about how wonderful UKIRT is despite dealing with the shut-down notice we got a month or so ago from the STFC. The presentation is scheduled for Friday afternoon, the penultimate talk on a Friday evening when everyone has gone home. Wonderful. I have a really good joke to tell as well...