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X-ray Binary Stars - Introduction

Animation of an X-ray binary star system

Animation of an X-ray Binary System

X-ray Binary Stars

What is a Binary Star System?

Binary star systems contain two stars that orbit around their common center of mass. Many of the stars in our Galaxy are part of a binary system.

X-ray Binaries

A special class of binary stars is the X-ray binaries, so-called because they emit X-rays. X-ray binaries are made up of a normal star and a collapsed star (a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole). These pairs of stars produce X-rays if the stars are close enough together that material is pulled off the normal star by the gravity of the dense, collapsed star. The X-rays come from the area around the collapsed star where the material that is falling toward it is heated to very high temperatures (over a million degrees!).

Show Me a Movie about X-ray Binaries!

See an animation of an X-ray binary system, showing material transferring from a companion star to the X-ray emitting accretion disk around the compact object. You will need the appropriate software and drivers to view the movie.


A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC

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