Chapter 2 — About binary / double star systems

Chapter 2: About binary star systems

Image source: The SAO Encyclopedia of Astronomy (opens in a new tab)

If you were to tell a child that practically all the stars we can see in the sky with our naked eyes have a binary companion, the child's reply would most likely be: "So WHY doesn't the Sun also have a companion, dad? If mom didn't exist, I wouldn't exist either!" Your best answer would probably be: "That's what astronomers say, honey - and they should know: they tell us that the Sun is a SINGLE star!" The child may then shed a tear at the sad thought that our Sun would be the loneliest star in our Universe. Incredulous, the enquiring child might then protest: "Dad! It doesn't make any sense! If ALL the stars in the sky have a partner, then our Sun must also have one!" You could then attempt to 'save face' by telling the child that you didn't say ALL of them - but 'practically all of them'.

Yet, it is a matter of historical record that the Copernicans rejected, for centuries, the very notion of binary stars:

"In a Copernican view, the idea of stellar systems containing two or more associated stars seemed a priori excluded by heliocentrism; all stars in the universe are suns like our own, all being equal in size and resting at the centre of other possible star systems. Given these premises, there cannot be a system with more than one star." "The Early Search for Stellar Parallax: Galileo, Castelli and Ramponi" - by Harald Siebert (2005) (opens in a new tab)

Today, this early Copernican axiom has been, of course, categorically contradicted - as the vast majority of our visible stars have turned out to be double (or multiple) systems in which, more often than not, two central 'stars' revolve around their common barycenter. There are basically three categories of double stars - defined as follows on Wikipedia's "double-star" entry:

    1. Visual binaries are gravitationally-bound stars (two or more) that are separately visible with a telescope.
    1. Non-visual binaries are stars whose binary status was deduced through more esoteric means, such as occultation (eclipsing binaries), spectroscopy (spectroscopic binaries), or anomalies in proper motion (astrometric binaries).
    1. Optical doubles are unrelated stars that only appear close together through chance alignment with Earth.

NOTE: the latter category (3) won't concern us here, since they are nothing but unrelated stars (a closer one and a much more distant one) which just happen to be aligned along our earthly line of sight.

What we shall see is that, when considering the most recent discoveries of observational astronomy, a reasonable case could certainly be made today that 100% of the stars in our skies may, in fact, be 'double' (or multiple) binary stars; ergo, that ALL of the apparently single points of light in our skies that we call 'a star' have a smaller companion, almost always undetectable to the naked eye. The two of them revolve around each other in intersecting orbits - around their common barycenter (or 'centre of mass') - completing one such revolution in variable time periods (ranging from just a few hours, days, weeks, months or a few dozen years - at the most). Here are a few examples of binary star periods:

  • The binary system MIZAR A (composed of Mizar Aa & Mizar Ab) circle each other in only about 20.5 days.

  • The binary system MIZAR B (composed of Mizar Ba & Mizar Bb) circle each other in just about 6 months.

  • The binary system Polaris (composed of Polaris Aa & Polaris Ab) circle each other in circa 29.6 years.

  • The binary system Alpha Centauri (composed of Alpha Centauri A & Alpha Centauri B) circle each other in circa 79.7 years.

As it is, some binary systems have recently been observed to revolve around each other in only a few minutes!

"After a decade of mystery, astronomers have now shown that a pair of white dwarf stars spin around each other in just 5.4 minutes, making them the fastest-orbiting and tightest binary star system ever found, the researchers claim." Fastest Orbiting Stars Circle Each Other in Mere Minutes (opens in a new tab)

Our Sun, in stark contrast, is currently believed to complete just ONE of its orbits in about 240 MILLION years!

We are thus asked to believe that the Sun has no "local orbit" (as I shall call it) of its own - much unlike practically ALL of the stars in our skies; this would, of course, imply that our Sun is a unique 'exception to the rule' - and a quite formidable 'cosmic and statistical anomaly'... To be sure, what we know today is that the vast majority of our visible stars (90% and counting) are, in fact, part of binary double / or multiple systems. (Oddly enough though, one may still bump into claims in modern astronomy textbooks that no more than 50% of them are, but this is simply untrue - for in later decades evidence has been incessantly mounting - suggesting that 100% of the stars may well be binaries).

“In fact, the majority of stars happens to be part of a binary or multiple system, and consequently binary star research covers most areas of stellar astronomy.” Binary stars and the VLTI: research prospects (opens in a new tab) by Andrea Richichi and Christopher Leinert (2000)

It is important to know that Tycho Brahe - who died in 1601 - never knew about binary systems. The very first binary system (Mizar A and B) was discovered in 1650 by Giovanni Riccioli almost 50 years after Tycho’s death, and only following the invention of the telescope. However, it wasn’t until more than a century later that William Herschel formally announced his discovery of what he described as “binary sidereal systems”:

“In 1797, Herschel measured many of the systems again, and discovered changes in their relative positions that could not be attributed to the parallax caused by the Earth's orbit. He waited until 1802 to announce the hypothesis that the two stars might be "binary sidereal systems" orbiting under mutual gravitational attraction, a hypothesis he confirmed in 1803 in his Account of the Changes that have happened, during the last Twenty-five Years, in the relative Situation of Double-stars; with an Investigation of the Cause to which they are owing. In all, Herschel discovered over 800 confirmed double or multiple star systems, almost all of them physical rather than optical pairs. His theoretical and observational work provided the foundation for modern binary star astronomy." William Herschel - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)

Here’s a chart of Herschel’s 805 certified double star systems. One can only wonder why Herschel's paradigm-shifting discoveries didn't trigger a revolution of sorts within astronomy - and why no one has, to this day, seriously reconsidered the Tychonic model - what with its intersecting orbits of the Sun and Mars which clearly suggest that they are a binary pair!

Image source: William Herschel's double star discoveries (opens in a new tab)

In any event, one cannot blame Tycho for failing to notice & identify (within his very own tychonic model) the obvious binary nature of the orbital interactions of Mars and the Sun: in his time, no binary star systems had yet been discovered. He was thus unable - understandably so - to reach the logical conclusion that the Sun and Mars must be a binary system - just like the vast majority (or probably ALL) of the stars in our skies.

It was precisely this 'bizarre' feature of Brahe’s proposed model (the intersecting orbits of Mars and the Sun) that triggered the scoffing and derision of his peers: “Sooner or later, the Sun and Mars must smash into each other!”- they jeered. This was a typical example of how the regrettable group-think tendencies pervading this world's scientific community often resort to ridicule new ideas that challenge their consolidated beliefs. I would strongly recommend reading Howard Margolis’ impeccable demonstration that the mentally-perceived collision of the Sun and Mars (as of the tychonic model) always was an illusion – albeit one that befuddled the entire scientific community for a very long time. It makes for an exemplary case study of how even the sharpest human minds can be fooled for centuries on end by relatively simple, illusory “tricks” of geometry.

"Tycho’s Illusion: How it lasted 400 Years, and What that implies about Human Cognition" - by Howard Margolis (1998) (opens in a new tab)

Let us now look at a classic binary star system, as illustrated on the below-linked webpage from the University of Oregon where we can read that the vast majority of the stars in the Milky Way are, in fact, binary stars resembling something like this basic configuration.

“In fact, 85% of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy are not single stars, like the Sun, but multiple star systems, binaries or triplets.” Source: "Binary Stars" by Jim Schombert - for University of Oregon (2018)

Today, the numbers of known binary star systems are in the range of several hundreds of thousands, as we can read in this Russian academic paper by Malkov, Karchevsky, Kaygorodov, Kovaleva and Skvortsov (October 2018):

Binary Star Database (BDB): New Developments and Applications. The Identification List of Binaries (ILB) is a star catalogue constructed to facilitate crossreferencing between different catalogues of binary stars. [...] ILB currently contains about 520,000 entries: 120,000 systems, 140,000 pairs and 260,000 components."Binary Star Database (BDB): New Developments and Applications" (opens in a new tab)

Clearly, binary systems are certainly not a rarity, as was believed only a century ago. For instance, we know today that our 20 very nearmost stars are, in all probability, ALL 'locked' in binary systems. Now, a most significant aspect to consider is that many of these 20 closest stars to Earth were revealed to be double (or multiple) stars as recently as this last half-decade (2015-2020)! This goes to show just how difficult it is to detect any stellar companions, let alone determine what sort of orbital relationship they have with their host star. This naturally raises the obligatory question: "how many more distant stars in our skies (still thought to be single stars) are, in reality, double stars?"

LIST OF OUR 20 NEARMOST STARS - and their confirmed (or suspected) companions

  1. Proxima Centauri A / Proxima Cen B / Proxima Cen C (companions B & C discovered in 2016 and 2020)
  2. Alpha Centauri A / Alpha Centauri B (companion B discovered long ago)
  3. Barnard’s Star A / Barnard’s star B (companion B discovered in 2018)
  4. Luhman A / Luhman B (companion B discovered long ago)
  5. WISE 0855−0714 A / WISE 0855−0714 B (companion B discovered in 2018)
  6. Wolf 359 A / Wolf 359 B / Wolf 359 C (companions B & C discovered in 2019)
  7. Lalande 21185 A / Lalande 21185 B (companion B discovered in 2017)
  8. Sirius A / Sirius B (companion B discovered long ago)
  9. Luyten 726-8 A / Luyten 726-8 B (companion B discovered long ago)
  10. Ross 154 (“flare star”, Wikipedia) (flare stars are suspected of being double stars)
  11. Ross 248 (“flare star”, Wikipedia) (flare stars are suspected of being double stars)
  12. Epsilon Eridani A / Epsilon Eridani B (companion B discovered long ago)
  13. Lacaille 935 (“has 3 known planets” - Wikipedia)
  14. Ross 128 A / Ross 128 B (companion B discovered in 2017)
  15. EZ Aquarii A / EZ Aquarii B / EZ Aquarii C (companions B & C discovered long ago)
  16. 61 Cygni A / 61 Cygni B (companion B discovered long ago)
  17. Procyon A / Procyon B (companion B discovered long ago)
  18. Struve A / Struve B (two more companions discovered in 2019)
  19. Groombridge A / Groombridge B (companion B discovered long ago)
  20. DX Cancri (“flare star” - Wikipedia) (flare stars are suspected of being double stars)

Source: "List of nearest stars" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)

As a matter of fact, the percentage of stars observed (or determined by spectrometry) to be locked in binary systems has been rapidly increasing in later years - thanks to advanced spectrometers and so-called Adaptive Optics (based on the Shack-Hartmann principle). The latter technological advancement has spectacularly improved the ability to detect and reveal double-stars formerly believed to be single stars. Of course, the difficulty resides in the fact that double-stars are always relatively close to each other and / or that the 'junior' companion can sometimes be extremely small (e.g. the tiny Sirius B, which is only about 0.5% the size of Sirius A). The below two images illustrate just how star "HIC 59206" (previously thought to be singular) was revealed, in May 2013, to be in fact yet another double binary star system - thanks to the use of Adaptive Optics technology (in this case, the two companion stars are fairly similar in size):

ESO imagery of a binary star (HIC 59206) imaged without and with adaptive optics correction. Note distinct binary appearance with adaptive optics. - European Southern Observatory (May 13, 2003). For more information about Adaptive Optics: "Adaptive Optics" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab).

To wit, if it eventually emerges that 100% of the stars in our skies are double/binary systems, the current Copernican heliocentric theory (which holds that our Sun is a single/companionless star) would have to be definitively abandoned - beyond appeal - for being a most improbable "exception to the rule" or, if you will, a one-of-a-kind cosmic anomaly! That is, unless we’d be willing to accept the truly astronomical odds of our own star (the Sun) being the one-and-only 'bachelor' in the entire Universe - a most irrational and exceptionalistic notion, if there ever was one! In any case, the situation we have today is that virtually all of our nearmost stars are observed to have a binary companion - and more are being continuously discovered, with no end in sight.

In the 1980s, one of the world’s top experts of binary star systems, Wulff Heintz, announced at the end of his illustrious career that at least 85% of all the stars in our skies must be double/binary stars, leaving us to wonder whether the remaining 15% would be “bachelor” stars (as our Sun is believed to be). Now, this announcement was made about 40 years ago; since then, thanks to technological advancements (e.g. Adaptive Optics - as mentioned above), we have an incessant flow of new reports of companions revolving around larger host stars (formerly believed to be single stars). In later years we have all heard in the news media about new so-called “exoplanets” being discovered, almost on a weekly basis. Rarely though, if at all, do such announcements suggest that some of these so-called “exoplanets” might be formerly unseen binary companions of those larger stars. The reason for this may be due to the growing realization that ALL the stars, without exception, could well be 'locked' in double/binary systems. This is of course a most abhorrent menace to the scientific establishment - and may thus plausibly be kept under wraps intentionally. Obviously, there could be no more horrifying prospect for 'mainstream astronomy' (for lack of a better term) than having to admit that ALL the stars in our skies are, in fact, double (or multiple) binary system - as this would definitively spell the end of heliocentrism.

Critics of the TYCHOS model often object that it “violates Newton’s laws”. Well, Sir Isaac Newton, who died in 1726 - i.e. several decades before Herschel’s formal identification of 'binary sidereal systems' in 1797 - never had a fair chance to study them. I will therefore kindly ask the readers to acknowledge this simple fact and to "leave Newton's sacrosanct laws at the door", so to speak. We are now living in the 21st century - and to keep appealing to 'newtonian authority' is no longer admissible, considering the countless new (and paradigm-changing) astronomical discoveries made during the last few decades. It is indeed ironic that some critics complain that the Tychos research would be "stuck in the past and rehashes obsolete ideas" - since much of its argumentation is based on modern astronomical advancements and observations. Having said that, I am sure that Sir Isaac was an exceptionally smart fellow, but none of his studies addressed the physics or celestial mechanics of binary star systems - for the simple reason that, in his time, little or nothing was known about them.

As for that other 'semi-God of science' Albert Einstein, here’s what Tom Van Flandern had to say about his theories - with regard to binary stars:

“If the general relativity method is correct, it ought to apply everywhere, not just in the solar system. But Van Flandern points to a conflict outside it: binary stars with highly unequal masses. Their orbits behave in ways that the Einstein formula did not predict. ‘Physicists know about it and shrug their shoulders,’ Van Flandern says. They say there must be ‘something peculiar about these stars, such as an oblateness, or tidal effects.’ Another possibility is that Einstein saw to it that he got the result needed to ‘explain’ Mercury’s orbit, but that it doesn’t apply elsewhere.”Tom Van Flandern articles (opens in a new tab)

In other words, Einstein's famed formulae failed to predict the orbital motions of binary stars! Now, that is a rather serious problem, for if it eventually turns out that our Universe is exclusively populated by binary star systems, it is "back-to-the-drawing-board" for the heliocentrists - and for the universally-acclaimed science idol Albert Einstein.

About "Variable stars" & "Flare stars"

At the start of the 20th century, astronomers were debating whether so-called 'variable stars' (stars which change in brightness over regular time periods) were, quite simply, nothing but binary systems where the companion star periodically transited in front of its brighter binary partner, thus temporarily reducing its brightness. However, astronomers are still classifying many stars ― those not yet officially recognized as binary stars ― as “variable stars” or “flare stars”. So what exactly are these types of stars meant to be? Let’s see what Wikipedia can tell us about them:

Variable stars (Wikipedia) "A variable star is a star whose brightness as seen from Earth (its apparent magnitude) fluctuates. This variation may be caused by a change in emitted light or by something partly blocking the light, so variable stars are classified as either:

- Intrinsic variables, whose luminosity actually changes; for example, because the star periodically swells and shrinks.

- Extrinsic variables, whose apparent changes in brightness are due to changes in the amount of their light that can reach Earth; for example, because the star has an orbiting companion that sometimes eclipses it. Many, possibly most, stars have at least some variation in luminosity.

You may agree that the first hypothesis (stars that periodically 'swell and shrink') sounds terribly outlandish! But let's get on:

Flare stars (Wikipedia) "A flare star is a variable star that becomes very much brighter unpredictably for a few minutes at a time. Most flare stars are dim red dwarfs, although less massive (lighter) brown dwarfs might also be able to flare. The more massive (heavier) RS Canum Venaticorum variables (RS CVn) are also known to flare, but scientists understand that a companion star in a binary system causes these flares.

Thus, in both cases (variable and flare stars) we see that the least speculative explanation is that these stars are, quite simply, binary star systems whose brightness periodically dips due to one companion obscuring the other. There may be no need to classify them as anything else but double/ binary stars.

Here are a some relevant extracts from the book “Astronomy of to-day”, by Cecil G. Dolmage (1910):

“It was at one time considered that a variable star was in all probability a body, a portion of whose surface had been relatively darkened in some manner akin to that in which sun spots mar the face of the sun; and that when its axial rotation brought the less illuminated portions in turn towards us, we witnessed a consequent diminution in the star's general brightness. [...] The scale on which it varies in brightness is very great, for it changes from the second to the ninth magnitude. For the other leading type of variable star, Algol, of which mention has already been made, is the best instance. The shortness of the period in which the changes of brightness in such stars go their round, is the chief characteristic of this latter class. The period of Algol is a little under three days. This star when at its brightest is of about the second magnitude, and when least bright is reduced to below the third magnitude; from which it follows that its light, when at the minimum, is only about one-third of what it is when at the maximum."

"It seems definitely proved by means of the spectroscope that variables of this kind are merely binary stars, too close to be separated by the telescope, which, as a consequence of their orbits chancing to be edgewise towards us, eclipse each other in turn time after time.” [...] “Since the companion of Algol is often spoken of as a dark body, it were well here to point out that we have no evidence at all that it is entirely devoid of light. We have already found, in dealing with spectroscopic binaries, that when one of the component stars is below a certain magnitude its spectrum will not be seen; so one is left in the glorious uncertainty as to whether the body in question is absolutely dark, or darkish, or faint, or indeed only just out of range ofthe spectroscope."

Indeed, it is a little-known fact among lay people that many so-called “stars” do not shine with their own light. For instance, most red dwarfs (by far the most common star type in our universe) are so faint and dim as to remain undetectable by even our largest modern telescopes. In the Tychos model, of course, this would be the case of Mars (the Sun’s proposed binary companion) which exhibits the characteristic orange hue associated with red dwarfs (yet, let's keep in mind that Mars appears to shine quite brightly from Earth due to its reflected solar light). Now, Mars is only about 0.5% the size of the Sun, and Sirius B (the tiny companion of the brightest star in our skies, Sirius A) also happens to be about 0.5% the size of its far larger partner. In fact, Alvan Clark’s discovery in 1862 of the midget Sirius B caused a stir among the 19th century's science community, since it was totally unexpected under Newton’s gravitational theories that a tiny body like Sirius B (reckoned to be slightly smaller than Earth) could possibly be gravitationally bound to such a huge body as Sirius A.

Incredibly enough, this major and pesky riddle was eventually 'resolved' - or rather, explained away - by our world’s astrophysicists as follows: they simply concluded, in absence of any conceivable experimental verification (and in what must be one of the most flagrant ad hoc postulations in the history of science) that the mass/ or density/ or gravitational attraction (call it what you will) of the tiny Sirius B "has to be about 400000 times larger than that of Earth”! In other words, we are being told that Sirius B's atoms are somehow 'packed 400 thousand times tighter' than our earthly atoms! Ironically though, one of Sir Isaac's most hallowed conclusions was that the laws of physics are unvarying and homogeneous across the Universe.

Most recent discoveries of stellar companions

As recently as 2016, it was announced that a companion of our NEARMOST star, Proxima Centauri, had been discovered: it is now known as “Proxima b” and apparently revolves around Proxima A in just 11.2 days. Then, in January of 2020, yet another companion to our closest star was announced, "Proxima c", now estimated to revolve around Proxima A in 5.28 years. (Additionally, a faint signal was detected during a 2019 exoplanet search using radial velocity data, with a period of only 5.15 days. If a planet is confirmed to be the cause of this signal, it would be designated as "Proxima d"!). Again, these quite recent discoveries go to show just how difficult it is, even for our most advanced 21st century instruments, to detect any binary companion candidates of any given star - in this case Proxima Centauri, the very nearmost star in our skies! Now, it should be noted that the Proxima 'family' a, b, c (and d?) are themselves reckoned to be slowly revolving around the binary pair Alpha Centauri A and B, the two Centauri star 'families' thus constituing a so-called "double-double" binary system (more about his later).

To wit, these recent discoveries would certainly seem to support the idea that 100% of the stars have a binary companion; ergo, the remaining stars in our skies (still believed to be 'single' or 'companionless') may ALL turn out to be, sometime in the future and thanks to improved techniques & instruments, binary star systems. To be sure, much observational work in this particular field of astronomy remains to be done:

"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" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)

Then, as recently as 2018, it was announced that a companion of our second-nearmost star (or star system), namely Barnard’s star, had been confirmed. As it happens, the existence of Barnard’s companion was the object of a bitter and long-lasting controversy (which every astronomy historian will remember) between Peter Van de Kamp and Wulff Heintz; Van de Kamp was convinced to have proven the existence of two companions (which he named B1 and B2) of the Barnard’s star, but Wulff Heintz would have none of it. For decades, vigorous efforts were deployed to discredit Van de Kamp’s discovery, including laughable claims that it was just an artifact caused by the improper cleaning of his telescope lenses... Yet, as we shall see, Van de Kamp’s observational work was finally vindicated, posthumously, in 2018 (even though yet another study released in July 2021 again disputes his findings. Astronomy, it seems, is a permanent 'battleground'!)

For the record, here's a 1969 Time magazine article about Van de Kamp's discovery of Barnard's star companions:

This epic feud between the two eminent astronomers (and binary-star experts) Heintz and Van de Kamp truly deserves to be recounted, so here we go. What follows is an extract from the Wikipedia which briefly summarizes their protracted dispute (warning: all information published on Wikipedia concerning historical controversies ought to be taken with a grain of salt. So, as the old saying goes, please "read between the lines"!):

The Barnard’s Star affair In the spring of 1937, Van de Kamp left McCormick Observatory to take over as director of Swarthmore College’s Sproul Observatory. There he made astrometric measurements of Barnard’s Star and in the 1960s reported a periodic “wobble” in its motion, apparently due to planetary companions. Astronomer John L. Hershey found that this anomaly apparently occurred after each time the objective lens was removed, cleaned, and replaced. Hundreds more stars showed “wobbles” like Barnard’s Star’s when photographs before and after cleaning were compared - a virtual impossibility. Wulff Heintz, Van de Kamp’s successor at Swarthmore and an expert on double stars, questioned his findings and began publishing criticisms from 1976 onwards; the two are reported to have become estranged because of this. Van de Kamp never admitted that his claim was in error and continued to publish papers about a planetary system around Barnard’s Star into the 1980s, while modern radial velocity curves place a limit on the planets much smaller than claimed by Van de Kamp. **Recent evidence suggests that there is, indeed, a planet orbiting Barnard’s Star, albeit of much lower mass than Van de Kamp could have detected.”**

Indeed, it now turns out that Heintz was wrong - and that Van de Kamp had been right all along! In November 2018, ESO (the ground-based European Southern Observatory) finally announced that the Barnard's star indeed has a companion:

Super-Earth Orbiting Barnard’s Star Red Dots campaign uncovers compelling evidence of exoplanet around closest single star to Sun. A planet has been detected orbiting Barnard’s Star, a mere 6 light-years away. This breakthrough - announced in a paper published today in the journal Nature - is a result of the Red Dots and CARMENES projects, whose search for local rocky planets has already uncovered a new world orbiting our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri. The planet, designated Barnard’s Star b, now steps in as the second-closest known exoplanet to Earth. The gathered data indicate that the planet could be a super-Earth, having a mass at least 3.2 times that of the Earth, which orbits its host star in roughly 233 days. Barnard’s Star, the planet’s host star, is a red dwarf, a cool, low-mass star, which only dimly illuminates this newly-discovered world."Super-Earth Orbiting Barnard’s Star" - European Southern Observatory (2018) (opens in a new tab)

It is interesting to note that both ESA (in 2007) and NASA (in 2010) decided to discontinue their efforts to search for Barnard’s companion after having failed to detect it and, apparently, due to “lack of funding”... Here’s what we may read on Wikipedia about these curious circumstances:

Null results for planetary companions continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including interferometric work with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1999. Gatewood was able to show in 1995 that planets with 10 MJ were impossible around Barnard's Star in a paper which helped refine the negative certainty regarding planetary objects in general. In 1999, the Hubble work further excluded planetary companions of 0.8 MJ with an orbital period of less than 1,000 days (Jupiter's orbital period is 4,332 days), while Kuerster determined in 2003 that within the habitable zone around Barnard's Star, planets are not possible with an "M sin i" value greater than 7.5 times the mass of the Earth (M🜨), or with a mass greater than 3.1 times the mass of Neptune (much lower than van de Kamp's smallest suggested value). (...) Even though this research greatly restricted the possible properties of planets around Barnard’s Star, it did not rule them out completely as terrestrial planets were always going to be difficult to detect. NASA’s Space Interferometry Mission, which was to begin searching for extrasolar Earth-like planets, was reported to have chosen Barnard’s Star as an early search target. This NASA mission was shut down in 2010. ESA’s similar Darwin interferometry mission had the same goal, but was stripped of funding in 2007. "Barnard's star" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)

So there you have it: both NASA’s and ESA’s efforts to search for the Barnard’s star companion(s) apparently failed - and were shut down. One may legitimately wonder why; “Lack of funding” is not an entirely convincing explanation. Whatever their motivation is, one fact remains of which there can be little doubt: Van de Kamp’s solitary endeavors succeeded where NASA’s efforts had failed, in spite of their much touted, multimillion-dollar ‘space telescopes’ and immensely superior resources.


Here’s a selection of quotes about binary stars from various astronomy sources:

“There are many common misconceptions about binary star systems, one of the most common myths is that binary star systems are the cosmic oddity and that single star systems are the most prevalent, when, in fact, the opposite is true. 50 years ago binary stars were considered a rarity. Now, most of the stars in our galaxy are known to be paired with a companion or multiple partners.”

“Binary stars are two stars orbiting a common center of mass. More than four-fifths (80%) of the single points of light we observe in the night sky are actually two or more stars orbiting together. The most common of the multiple star systems are binary stars, systems of only two stars together. These pairs come in an array of configurations that help scientists to classify stars, and could have impacts on the development of life. Some people even think that the sun is part of a binary system.”

“Binary stars are of immense importance to astronomers as they allow the masses of stars to be determined. A binary system is simply one in which two stars orbit around a common centre of mass, that is they are gravitationally bound to each other. Actually most stars are in binary systems. Perhaps up to 85% of stars are in binary systems with some in triple or even higher-multiple systems.”

Would you be surprised to know that the idea that the Sun is part of a binary system is not a new concept? The Binary Research Institute headed by Walter Cruttenden has been looking into this hypothesis for many years. Unfortunately, their reasoning process is stuck in the Copernican heliocentric paradigm, and thus, their ongoing search for the Sun’s elusive binary companion has never considered Mars as a possible candidate. Their current, favored candidate (for a binary companion of the Sun) appears to be Sirius. However, Sirius is itself a binary system (Sirius A and B revolve around their common barycenter every 50.1 years). Nonetheless, Cruttenden (et al) have made a sterling job demonstrating, in methodical fashion, that the so-called “Lunisolar” theory - i.e. Earth’s purported “wobble” around its axis - is utterly untenable, for a number of reasons (but more about this in Chapter 10).

"A recent study of the phenomenon known as “Precession of the Equinox” has led researchers to question the extent of lunisolar causation and to propose an alternative solar system model that better fits observed data, and solves a number of current solar system anomalies."

The below spirographic (or trochoidal) patterns are from a fairly recent study (2010) concerned with the “barycentric motion of exoplanet host stars”. In the TYCHOS model - as we shall see - the spirographic orbital paths of our planets all bear some resemblance to these complex yet beautiful patterns that some modern astronomers are observing nowadays in what they call "the barycentric motion of exoplanet host stars":

Above image from p.6 of "The barycentric motion of exoplanet host stars" (opens in a new tab) by M. A. C. Perryman and T. Schulze-Hartung (2010)

In conclusion, and in light of the facts and considerations expounded in this chapter, the notion of the Sun and Mars being a binary pair should emerge (not least from a probabilistic perspective) as a perfectly sound and logical proposition. As you may now agree, that child's question remains very much worthy of serious consideration: "Dad, if all the stars have a companion, WHY would our Sun NOT have one?"