Two Distorted Stars

I have spent the last week in Alaska at the 220th AAS conference. It was a blast, but did not lend itself to blogging...

By way of an apology, here is a (gratuitous) animation of a binary star system orbiting that I created for my research using the PHOEBE software package. The animation was created by stitching 10ish frames (generated in IDL) together in gifsicle, which is kind of an old-school way of doing this. This visualizes two stars orbiting each other in a "semi-detached" configuration.

The smaller star is about 70% the mass of the bigger one. They are both distorted, with a characteristic tear-dropped shape, due to the tidal gravitational force between them. We will be discussing many such systems at the forth-coming "Al-Fest" workshop at UW next month.

This was a simple test case animation I made, and is not the final configuration for the short period binary I recently presented at the conference. (The paper should be submitted this week has been submitted!)

Nothing else too fancy to say about it. I think it's quite mesmerizing, and utterly fascinating to consider that two stars can be orbiting each other so quickly and closely. In the case of my short period object, composed of two M dwarfs, they go through a full orbit once every ~4 hours!

Like with my previous Plots as Art post(s), sometimes the research visualizations are just too fun not to share.


  1. Nice. I've never made an animation with PHOEBE - did you use a screenshot tool of some sort or is that something you can do within PHOEBE?
    Also, that M dwarf binary of yours is hauling ass.

    1. This was done the stupidest way possible, using the built in 3D surface plot, and manually adjusting the orbital phase by 10% each step.

      A smarter way to do this is writing a simple script using the "PHOEBE Scripter API" to get many more frames out. An example of this is in a video Here , but I don't have good jedi skills for making videos. Got any tips on that, btw?

    2. Haha, that's kinda what I suspected :)
      I know Jerry's ELC code spits out frames that can somehow be made into a movie, but I've never done it myself. One of these days.


Inappropriate comments, advertisements, or spam will be removed.
Posts older than 2 weeks have moderated comments.
(Anonymous commenting disabled due to increasing spam)