• Question: how thick are Saturn's rings ? What is a Binary System?

    Asked by danniella1588 to Colm, Eoin, Joseph, Lauren, Stephen on 18 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Joseph Roche

      Joseph Roche answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      Saturn’s rings range from about 10 metres to 1km in thickness.

      Binary systems are pairs of objects in space that orbit a common centre point due to their gravitational attraction to each other. This seems to be a common question… I wonder why people are so interested in binary systems.

    • Photo: Stephen Scully

      Stephen Scully answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      A binary system is a solar system with 2 stars. If jupiter was bigger it might turn into a star then we would live in a binary system.

    • Photo: colm bracken

      colm bracken answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      The other two guys answered this one really well, so I’ll just add that to it maybe. What is really cool about binary stars systems is that one star can rip the material off the other star. If this process goes on for long enough then the star that’s doing the ripping will become unstable due to the extra mass its gaining and it will explode in a huge supernova event. These are a special type of supernova called a type 1a supernova and they always appear the same brightness which is great for using them distance markers, or ‘Standard Candles’.

    • Photo: Eoin O Colgain

      Eoin O Colgain answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      Numbers are stored in a computer in binary. This means there are two possibilities, one stores a 0 or stores a 1.

      A binary system is a two-body system, typically 2 stars, but one could also be a black hole, in which case one would just see a star orbiting a point in space.