TYC 5134-1820-1: A New Double Star Discovery

Shadow path of TYC 5134-01820-1 occulted by asteroid 1330 Spiridonia – June 26, 2023 UT

On 26 June 2023 UT, Vince Sempronio near Benson, Arizona and David Oesper near Tucson, Arizona observed an occultation of the 12.2-magnitude* star Tycho 5134-1820-1 in the constellation Aquila by the 15.1-magnitude asteroid 1330 Spiridonia. The predicted magnitude drop should have been around 2.9 magnitudes (15.1m-12.2m) by both observers, but I observed only about a 0.2-magnitude drop, and Vince a 1.5 magnitude-drop. After expert analysis by David Gault and David Herald in Australia, it was determined that we had discovered a new double star!

Observer locations for the June 26, 2023 occultation event

Fortuitously, Vince had observed 1330 Spiridonia covering up only the primary (brightest) component, and I had observed 1330 Spiridonia covering up only the secondary component. Both of us made our observations with 8-inch telescopes.

Vince Sempronio’s light curve (11.2 seconds, 70 data points)
David Oesper’s light curve (60.7 seconds, 455 data points)

The double star solution from our observations gives the following:

G magnitude of the primary component: 12.4

G magnitude of the secondary component: 13.9

Separation: 59.7 milliarcseconds (0.0597 arcseconds)

Position Angle: 141.8° (eastward from north)

The double star solution

Follow up observations over time will be needed to determine whether this is an optical double (chance alignment) or a true binary system. The distance to TYC 5134-1820-1 is currently estimated to be between 2,689 and 2,883 light years (SIMBAD). Definitely not in the neighborhood.

Even though double stars are common in our galaxy (and everywhere else in the universe), and understanding that our observations represent only the tiniest contribution to scientific knowledge, there is satisfaction in knowing that we discovered something not known by anyone else before. Besides, you never know when a discovery such as this will draw attention to an unusual and astrophysically-interesting system.

In conclusion, here is but one example showing that observations of stellar occultations by the minor planets of our solar system presents an exquisite method of discovering very close double (and possibly binary) stars, not assayable by any other technique.

*Gaia G magnitude

Double Star Discovery: TYC 724-273-1

On 20 Oct 2021 UT, I observed the star TYC 724-273-1 in the constellation Orion being covered up by the asteroid 444 Gyptis. The star disappeared at 5:31:53.856 UT and reappeared at 5:32:10.506, a duration of 16.65 seconds.

The published apparent visual magnitude of this star is 11.5 and the published apparent visual magnitude of 444 Gyptis at the time of the event is 12.5.

The combined magnitude (mc) of star + asteroid just before (and after) the occultation event is given by

m_{c}=m_{o}-2.5\log_{10}\left (10^{0.4(m_{o}-m_{*})}+1  \right )

where mo is the magnitude of the asteroid
     and m* is the magnitude of the star

This gives us a combined magnitude of 11.14 just before the occultation.

While the asteroid is covering up the star, you should only see the asteroid, so the magnitude should decrease from 11.14 to 12.5, a magnitude drop of 1.36 magnitudes.

Much to my surprise, I observed a magnitude drop of only 0.54.

Is it possible that 444 Gyptis only covered up one component of a previously undiscovered double star? That idea is bolstered by the fact that the event occurred 14.8 seconds earlier than predicted, a full 3.7σ early.

Entertaining the double-star idea, our task is to determine the magnitudes of the two blended stars and which one got covered up. Let us call the magnitudes of the two components m*1 and m*2, with m*1 being the component that got covered. We already know that m*1 + m*2 must equal m* = 11.5. We also know that the observed magnitude drop of the m*1 plus the unobserved magnitude drop that the m*2 star would have had must equal the expected magnitude drop of 1.36. This gives us enough information to calculate m*1 and m*2 individually.

m_{*1} = -\log_{10}\left (10^{-\left (m_{c}+\Delta m_{obs}  \right )/2.5}-10^{-0.4m_{o}}  \right )/0.4

m_{*2} = -\log_{10}\left (10^{-\left (m_{*}/2.5\right )}-10^{-0.4m_{*1}}  \right )/0.4

where mo is the magnitude of the asteroid
     and m* is the magnitude of the star
     and mc is the magnitude of the star + asteroid
     and m*1 is the magnitude of the occulted star component
     and m*2 is the magnitude of the unocculted star component
     and Δmobs is the observed magnitude drop

This gives us a magnitude of 12.36 for the occulted component and 12.15 for the unocculted component. Thus we can see that I observed the fainter component of the double star being occulted by asteroid 444 Gyptis.

Finally, we can do an extra check to make sure that the magnitudes of the two star components plus the asteroid equals the combined magnitude of 11.14 we expected right before the occultation occurred.

m_{c}=-2.5\log_{10}\left (10^{-0.4m_{*1}}+10^{-0.4m_{*2}}+10^{-0.4m_{o}}  \right )

Here’s a little SAS program I wrote to do the calculations.

data magdrop;
   format mstar mastr mcomb pdelm odelm mstr1 mstr2 mtot 5.2;
   mstar = 11.5;
   mastr = 12.5;
   odelm = 0.54;
   x = 0.4*(mastr - mstar);
   mcomb = mastr - 2.5*log10(10**x + 1);
   pdelm = mastr - mcomb;
   mstr1 = log10(10**((mcomb+odelm)/-2.5) - 10**(-0.4*mastr))/-0.4;
   mstr2 = log10(10**(mstar/-2.5) - 10**(-0.4*mstr1))/-0.4;
   mtot = -2.5*log10(10**(-0.4*mstr1)+10**(-0.4*mstr2)+10**(-0.4*mastr));
   file print;
   put 'Published Magnitude of Occulted Star = ' mstar;
   put 'Magnitude of Asteroid = ' mastr;
   put 'Combined Magnitude Right Before Occultation = ' mcomb;
   put 'Predicted Magnitude Drop = ' pdelm;
   put 'Observed Magnitude Drop = ' odelm;
   if (odelm/pdelm > 0.5 and mstr1 > mstr2) or
      (odelm/pdelm < 0.5 and mstr1 < mstr2) then do;
      put 'Magnitude of Star Component Occulted = ' mstr2;
      put 'Magnitude of Star Component Not Occulted = ' mstr1;
   else do;
      put 'Magnitude of Star Component Occulted = ' mstr1;
      put 'Magnitude of Star Component Not Occulted = ' mstr2;
   put 'Total Magnitude of Both Star Components + Asteroid = ' mtot;

Published Magnitude of Occulted Star = 11.50                                                      
Magnitude of Asteroid = 12.50                                                                     
Combined Magnitude Right Before Occultation = 11.14                                               
Predicted Magnitude Drop = 1.36                                                                   
Observed Magnitude Drop = 0.54                                                                    
Magnitude of Star Component Occulted = 12.36                                                      
Magnitude of Star Component Not Occulted = 12.15                                                  
Total Magnitude of Both Star Components + Asteroid = 11.14