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Space Science

Most Stars Are Single 100

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hollywood-allegory dept.
An anonymous reader writes to tell us Space.com is reporting that 'for more than 200 years, astronomers thought that most of the stars in our galaxy had stellar companions. But a new study suggests the bulk of them are born alone and never have stellar company.' The key difference seems to come from the difference between the highly turbulent clouds that produce massive stars in groups and the less active smaller clouds that produce red dwarfs."
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Most Stars Are Single

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  • Myspace.com (Score:5, Funny)

    by imoou (949576) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:50PM (#14602000) Homepage
    I bet these lonely stars spend most of their time hanging around myspace.com.
  • Sure. (Score:3, Funny)

    by IAAP (937607) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:50PM (#14602002)
    With the divorce rate in Hollywood and everything who could blame them for being single! Sure, they're ...

    What? RTFA? Huh, you're new here.

    Anyway, where was I, oh yeah, Stars and their divorce rate...

  • ...how often we have to unlearn what we've been taught for so long by scientists. This has been one of the more basic tenets of astronomy, something almost always mentioned when discussing extrasolar planets at any length. And now we're being told that two hundred years of teaching was wrong?

    The longer I live, the less enamored I am with science. I was always taught that it's this great infallible thing, that science only knows fact. This is a prime example of just how wrong science can be. I suppose I'm ju
    • I don't recall a high percentage of other solar systems having one or more planets as a basic tenet of astronomy. Do you have any links to back that up?
      • I think you misread (I wasn't terribly clear about it, sorry).

        What I meant was that nearly every time I've heard extrasolar planets discussed at any length, someone makes it a point to say that the vast majority of star systems are binary or trinary, so simple and predictable planetary cycles like ours are rare. The finding that most stars don't have partners changes all that.
    • Then you were taught wrong. Science isn't about absolute truth. Science is about finding explanations for phenomena, and making predictions based on those explanations. We can prove the explanations false by providing counterexamples, but we can never prove them to be true. The most we can say about these explanations is that we haven't been able to prove them false, and that as such, they're, AFAWK, pretty good.
    • by ZombieWomble (893157) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:05PM (#14602163)
      The longer I live, the less enamored I am with science. I was always taught that it's this great infallible thing,

      Whoever taught you were incorrect then. Science's biggest strength is the fact that it is based around the concept that what we know can, and likely is wrong, and that it can only be verified by observing facts.

      In this case, it's quite like relativity generalising Newton's laws - for large, easily observable stars, this rule holds true. But more detailed measurements indicate errors which happen in 'special' (or, in truth, more general) condition.

      Development in science is nothing to be afraid of - sure, we were wrong in the past, and probably still are, but now we're a little more right. Maybe it's not a big problem, but it's better than sticking our heads in the sand and never learning.

      (Besides, everyone knows Astrophysicists aren't real scientists... or at least that's what I tell my friends in that department. They usually don't disagree :) )

      • Not real scientists huh? Well we'll see what you say when we take another one of your labs and lock you people out of the bathroom on the 3rd floor!!!!

        Ha HAA!!
      • Perhaps they don't disagree because they're too busy pondering scientific conundra to grant a response to your silly remarks. ;-)

        Or maybe some Cosmetologists wandered into the wrong building...
      • Whoever taught you were incorrect then. Science's biggest strength is the fact that it is based around the concept that what we know can, and likely is wrong, and that it can only be verified by observing facts.

        I agree with you in both cases, that this is science's greatest strength and it was incorrectly presented.

        HOWEVER, I'll also point out that - barring a few scientists that are very forthright about the limits of their knowledge with "Well, we're pretty sure about X, but we don't know how it explains
        • Go to any undergrad science course

          I dunno, my undergrad particle physics was taught by stepping through all the developments of the 'facts' in that area, showing what evidence demonstrated they went wrong, what the new model was, and so forth. And finished up with modern questions and details of experiments which are working on them. Similarly, one of my QM lecturers loved to set assignments researching the background of open questions or significant limitations in QM as taught. An excellent example of h

    • I agree. The more I dig into the specifics of a lot of which is reported as new fact I find is complete conjecture. If all they have is conjecture and no direct causality... I'm not terribly interested in the findings.
    • Having to constantly "unlearn" stuff is a good thing, IMHO. It shows that our knowledge base and science is expanding and evolving. What would be disappointing is if these age old "facts" were never rechecked/refuted.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you're looking to science for Truth, that's where you've gone wrong yourself.

      Key word in science: THEORY.

      There is no truth.
    • by JWW (79176)
      Science is the _path_ to truth, not truth itself.
      • I like that statement. Science can only prove what is not true. Progress in science is made by restricting more and more what could be true. So science leads us to truth asymptotically. I think the mistaken idea that science provides absolute truth is responsible for 90% of the debate on intelligent design. The philosophical conflict between science and religion only exists when both scientific theories and religious texts or leaders are thought to be "authoritative" -- to contain absolute truth.
    • by Wombat (6297)
      I personally find it exciting when we're able to revise our theories based upon new information. It means that we have new information, and that's always a good thing.

      Recall that Astrophysics is still a relatively young science. As we acquire new observational tools, we find ourselves with more and better data. And so assumptions are adjusted.

      It's not flip-flopping. It's learning.
    • ...how often we have to unlearn what we've been taught for so long by scientists. This has been one of the more basic tenets of astronomy, something almost always mentioned when discussing extrasolar planets at any length. And now we're being told that two hundred years of teaching was wrong?

      I know you are somewhat joking, but...

      The point of scientific truth, is that there are no constant truths except maybe speed of light. (Even then people are trying to disprove that as we speak)

      You must assume everything
    • by wanerious (712877) on Monday January 30, 2006 @06:02PM (#14602674) Homepage
      As an astronomy educator, believe me, I understand. But in realizing that scientific theories are really only our best models right now, it's actually invigorating that the more we study and investigate the universe the more beautiful, complex, and subtle it is.

      It's probable that *everything* you have been taught will some day have to be "unlearned". In this case, as with many others, it's not so much that what you were taught was wrong, only that it was imprecise. The article reaffirms that it is still true that most of the bright stars in the sky are members of multiple-star systems. Just the previously unobserved swarm of very dim, red stars seem to be largely isolated. Still consistent with previous observations.

    • You're right. The longer I live, the less confident I am that science provides the answers human beans wielding it say it does, too.

      Problem is, the longer I live, the even less confident I am that { religion | philosophy | technology | love | sex | games | sailboats | witty dialogue | et cetera } provides any reliable answers, either. I'm almost beginning to suspect the problem is not with the tools but with the tool-users...

      But anyway, it's a question of relative rates. I think if you live long enough,
    • I know, I mean, first the earth was flat, and then they all tried to convice us is was round.

      Then the earth was the center of the galaxy and everything revolved around us, and now we're just some random planet in billions that rotates around other things.

      And now not all the stars have partners?!? That's crazy talk! I mean, people that believe that nonsense are heretics!

      But seriously, I thought we figured this out before... Oh well, I could be wrong. Suppose if we did, we just made sure this time, which i
    • Huh? Scientists learned something new and you're diappointed? No, a disappointment look like this: We looked out in space and everything exactly fit our pre-conceptions. Nature has no surprises for us today, just bland old confirmations! Is that what you would have preferred?
    • The longer I live, the less enamored I am with science. I was always taught that it's this great infallible thing, that science only knows fact. This is a prime example of just how wrong science can be.

      Science has theories and theorems. Theorems are proven; theorems are fact. On the other hand, theories are probably true, but not proven yet. The theory that most stars are binary was ...a theory, i.e. not yet established with any scientific proof. So it is hardly disappointing for me that there was a cha

    • Well, it's true that science only knows facts. As does everyone else. However, science isn't just about what we know, but mostly about what we predict from what we know. That is, we search for patterns, and if a pattern seems to work reasonably well (i.e. we have tried it quite often and it worked on all our tests), we have a theory. Those theories are not facts, the only fact involved is that they describe the past observations well. It is a prediction that they will also describe future observations well,
    • It wasn't that long ago when scientists of old thought the world was flat. And I'm sure they were scientists by their standards at least. People used to hang on to every word they uttered. Things haven't moved on that much with the illusion of intellect from a scientific mind. As with anything scientific, unless you can touch it, it then fails to be recognised. Science is an illusion for proving the unknown to be fact, by removing all doubt and fear from the mind of civilization. It happened when mankind l
      • "It wasn't that long ago when scientists of old thought the world was flat. And I'm sure they were scientists by their standards at least. People used to hang on to every word they uttered. "

        No, they were mostly religious figures. Scientists, or at least those participating in reason-based free inquiry about the natural world and our role in it, were sometimes hung for the words they uttered.

        "Things haven't moved on that much with the illusion of intellect from a scientific mind. As with anything sci
        • Well, nothing suprises me with science. Just as your reply didn't suprise me any either. Although I'm giving you a tad too much credit here. Next time, maybe try and reply with some sense of who you really are!
          • "Well, nothing suprises me with science. Just as your reply didn't suprise me any either. "

            Well, it's not a particularly surprising response. I understand the human capacity for reason as the force preventing us from living like animals and grunting in amazement at fires and moonlight. Responding with distaste for the suggestion that this capacity should perpetuate its past errors in judgment, such as religion and astrology, is pretty predictable.

            "Next time, maybe try and reply with some sense of wh
            • 'Well, it's not a particularly surprising response. I understand the human capacity for reason as the force preventing us from living like animals and grunting in amazement at fires and moonlight. Responding with distaste for the suggestion that this capacity should perpetuate its past errors in judgment, such as religion and astrology, is pretty predictable.' I also understand your need to protect what you feel is 'right' just because you read it in a text book and stand by it until proved otherwise by so
              • You're right on one thing in your post: "[You] have no answers."

                One thing is obvious from the rambling quality of your posts, your denial of absolute knowledge paired with groundless declarations, and inability to see that today's technology was yesterday's science: you have nothing more than words without meaning, the "blarney chattering's and mind murmurings" to which you refer. I wonder what purpose you see in communication between people.
                • Yes I'm right! At least you got something right at last! Although you are bordering on DUBYA speech, it's plain to see where you're coming from in your approach of self fear and lack of actual intellect in any manner of thinking. You can't back up anything unless it's via a hazy interlude of so called 'practicality of logic'. Not that much different to religion really. And as for me not being very knowledgeable, again you are right. Congratulations to yourself, as you will also know (if you care to admi
                  • From the gist of the conversation, you seem to be equating science with belief.

                    You maintain that scientists follow the "dogma" of some kind of science clergy, and that they should abandon their current methods and look for "alternate" explanations.

                    It's very likely that you are a highly religious person who is unable to imagine a world view without religious belief of some kind. I would wager you regard atheism and agnotisism as "belief systems", even though they are nothing of the kind. You must understand
                    • Yes I was equating science to a belief, as my first post in reply to yours was established by the shock horror experienced by yourself in total disbelief that stellar stars had now gone solo. I'm not highly religious at all, even though it would appear that anyone who does not go along with science and all it offers us is somehow religious. And again I should mention...I AM NOT ANTI-SCIENCE...lol I also am not an atheist either . Although atheists do believe in something if not anything as they believe in
  • by NiteShaed (315799) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:02PM (#14602127)
    So does this mean that the big two-for-one sale at http://www.starregistry.com/ [starregistry.com] will have to be rethought?
  • Natalie, here I come with a bucket of hot grits!!! .....huh?..Oh, those stars...
    Rats!!!
    I knew it was too good to be true! ;)

    That's the beauty of science, update your theories when new data is recieved.
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:07PM (#14602189)
    "Most slashdot users as well..."
  • Quality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by saskboy (600063) on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:08PM (#14602198) Homepage Journal
    We all realized how far down in quality Slashdot has sunk when the first thought on everyone's mind when they saw this title was, "I can think of way more married stars than single ones."

    In astronomy class 4 years ago I learned that most solar systems were binary or more complex, so this is very interesting news indeed. I wonder if this improves the chances of more solar systems having planetary companions, since I'd think it less likely for binary or trinary systems to have planets since more matter in the system is taken up in star mass.

    This might also increase the calculable possibility for habitible planets in our galzaxy too.
    • Given the association with 'single' with marital status a synonym should have been used, such as 'isolated', which reduces the vagueness greatly.

      So. Yeah. Woo.
    • It's been here a while. Are you new here? Because well, a bunch of tech geeks finding humor in headlines, especially with regards to sex & dating, is not a recent trend. With the proper choice of words and phrasing, it's still funny, too!
    • Criminey, did you even see from the hollywood-allegory dept.? References to pop culture are traditionally supposed to be funny here, so who the hell whipped your ass with the +3 stick of seriousness and unfunnay?

    • ...I'd think it less likely for binary or trinary systems to have planets since more matter in the system is taken up in star mass.

      That's not the only reason. It's much less likely that a planet will have a stable orbit in a multi-star system, unless one of the stars is very far from the center of gravity. Even so, the chance of ther being a stable orbit inside the star's habitable zone (For earth-like values of habitable.) are very small.

      • IIRC, it's essentially impossible for any planet to have an orbit that passes between the two stars, so the only way for a binary system to have planets is for the stars to be close enough together and the planetary orbit far enough out that the planet(s) orbit the center of mass of the pair. That nearly precludes life-as-we-know-it since you're looking at very cold orbits. Based on my memory of lectures some years ago, though, fwiw.
        • You're thinking of a "figure eight" orbit and from what I understand, that's not stable. However, there's another possibility: Proxima Centauri is far enough from the other two components of the system that it could have planets orbiting it only, as long as its ecliptic were properly oriented.
    • We all realized how far down in quality Slashdot has sunk when the first thought on everyone's mind when they saw this title was, "I can think of way more married stars than single ones."

      Now, are you sure that for those stars, the same problem doesn't apply? So most of the easily visible stars are married. However you usually only see the stars produced in big clouds like Hollywood, but there are also e.g. porn stars which are not as easily observed (a regular cinema isn't sufficient for their observation).

  • my current girl problems, when put in perspective, arent that bad, seeing as how i've only been trying for 5 or so out of my 16 years and stars have been trying for billions :P heh suddenly all the crap last weekend and week has been put into perspective, thanks slashdot :)
  • by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelina ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:17PM (#14602289) Journal
    And here I thought I was going to learn how I might have a shot at Kate Beckinsale [imdb.com] or Lucy Liu [imdb.com], but instead it's only some lame story about astronomy. Thanks for getting my hopes up once again slashdot!!!

    sheesh!

  • While the results of the star survey do not disprove the nemesis theory, they do seem to lessen the chance of it being correct. With red dwarves being being the most likely suspect for nemesis (see http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/ nemesis_010320-1.html/ [space.com] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(star)/ [wikipedia.org]) and at the same time not likely to be a companion star, I guess they'll have to look for different astrological suspects.
    • Rogue planets. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a solar primary to form a smaller body. And there are such things as 'supernovas', which produce shockwaves that would alter the courses of any nearby bodies. Another possibility is there really is such a thing as a gravitational wave. I suppose a strong enough wave could cause bodies located in the oort cloud to fall inward. Or perhaps a primary's gravity can fluctuate causing the same effect. Really, hinging the entire Nemesis hypothesis on a
    • The people at zetatalk.com [zetatalk.com] thing planet x is still coming, so the nemisis theory must be true.
  • True, not true (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChrisDolan (24101) <chris+slashdot@c ... t ['sdo' in gap]> on Monday January 30, 2006 @05:57PM (#14602632) Homepage
    The article goes on to explain that red dwarfs (tiny stars, much smaller than the sun) are much more common that sun-like and larger stars, and that red dwarfs are much less likely to be binaries. So, in total stars are more likely to be single.

    However, from my reading it seems that the conventional wisdom that most sun-like stars are binaries is still true. I once learned the humorous mnemonic "Three out of every two stars is a binary".
  • I thought most of the stars were divorced at least once.
  • Old News (Score:3, Informative)

    by Einer2 (665985) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:03PM (#14603994)
    We've known for about a decade that the binary frequency among low-mass (early M) stars is only 30-35%. We've also known for at least that long that the general shape of the field mass function is weighted in favor of low-mass stars. It's a very short leap to draw the corresponding conclusion, and it's been done in plenty of other papers that actually present useful results at the same time.

    For those who care about the background, the binary frequency has been shown pretty clearly to depend on mass. Solar-mass stars have binary frequencies of at least 60%, stars of 0.5 solar masses have binary frequencies of ~35%, and very low-mass stars and brown dwarfs (under 0.2 solar masses) have binary frequencies of around 10-20%. The binary frequency among more massive stars appears to be even higher than for solar-mass stars.

    The popular reason to care about binary frequencies is to determine the frequency with which planetary systems could occur. If you're interested in habitable planets around solar-type stars, the higher binary frequency is one to care about. The frequency with which planets could form around lower-mass stars is intrinsically interesting since they're so common, but they're also much harder to detect any of these planets using existing indirect methods, so it's a harder question to actually answer. Once we have the ability to directly image planets, the problem will invert itself since it's easier to see planetary companions to faint stars than bright stars.

    • The popular reason to care about binary frequencies is to determine the frequency with which planetary systems could occur.

      And this is probably because it impacts the probability of intelligent life elsewhere, yes?

      But the thing is, I have my doubts about the formation of habitable planets being the rate-limiting step, the key term in the Drake Equation, so to speak. I'm thinking the rate of spontaneous creation of life could be the really tough step. Maybe the rate of habitable planet formation isn't awf
  • You see why most Stars keep single is , that ones that have recently suffered a tough break up seem to Join Scientology .
    Others who have had relationships with Black holes have said "Once you've gone Black , there is no going back, especially once you cross the event horizon"
  • Holly: Look, we're travelling faster than the speed of light. That means, by the time we see something, we've already passed through it. Even with an IQ of 6000, it's still brown trousers time.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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