Multiple stars and clusters

Single stars such as the Sun are a minority within our galaxy—most are found in binary or multiple systems. Nearly all stars are born in substantial clusters—some of which hold together, while others slowly drift apart.

multiple stars

Binary and multiple star systems form when a collapsing protostellar cloud separates into two or more individual clumps that are still bound to each other by gravity. Simple binaries are the most common type, but larger groups are also widespread. Because the protostellar cloud can separate unevenly, stars in a multiple system can develop with different masses, and therefore can follow different evolutionary pathways and age at different rates. This gives rise to spectacular binaries with strongly contrasting colors and brightnesses, and also to systems in which one star has become a stellar remnant while the other remains on the main sequence—

multiple stars

The great majority of the stars in the sky are multiples— those listed below are some of the most spectacular that can be seen through a small telescope. Some of the multiple systems contain component stars that cannot be separated visually.

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