An eclipsing binary system is formed by two stars whose orbital plane is oriented towards the Earth, so that in the eyes of an observer they experience eclipses and mutual transits. These eclipses can be total or partial. An eclipsing binary system is usually composed of large stars located in very small orbits, so that time can end in a mutual fusion.
Contrary to what happens with other binary sets, eclipsing binaries do not allow us to distinguish their stars from each other. Only thanks to the changes in brightness that take place periodically in these systems can we calculate when one star hides the other.
There is a direct relationship between the variation in brightness and the elapsed time, which is represented in a light curve. This curve indicates the time it takes for a star to orbit the other. With these calculations we can deduce that in a period of maximum brightness the two stars are next to each other. It can also be deduced that when the light curve reaches a minimum point, the least bright star, usually the largest, hides its companion. On the contrary, when the brightest star, which is usually the smallest, hides its partner, only a small loss of luminosity occurs.
The first eclipsing binary system was discovered in 1782 by astronomer John Goodricke. It was Beta Persei, the second brightest star in the constellation Perseus. Currently known as the Algol system, it is actually two stars that form an eclipsing binary system that are located at a distance of almost 95 light years from Earth.
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