Does our Sun have a counterpart, i.e., is it a part of a binary-system? If so, how does the other star look like and where is it?


2 Answers 2


There is no observational evidence that the sun is a member of a binary (trinary, or more) star system, where "star" means an object that is at least ~80 times the mass of jupiter and emits energy/light via standard hydrogen fusion.

Some evidence that people point to is that the majority of stars in the Galaxy (perhaps 60% or so) are binary. However, that does not mean that we are a binary system, just that we are among those which are not.

There is the Nemesis star idea which was a hypothetical binary companion to the sun to account for periodic mass extinctions roughy every 26 million years (as in, the two stars would therefore be on a 26 million year period, so the companion is a few light-years away). There are two problems with that: First, that a 2010 reanalysis of the data showed that it was too periodic over the past 500 million years, during which time we've gone around the galaxy twice, and so our hypothetical binary orbits should have been perturbed and not be perfect (though others say that the precision of the geologic timescale isn't good enough to say this). But, second, we can see stars out to a few light years -- we can see small, faint stars out to thousands of light years. We have all-sky infrared surveys that should be able to pick up the faintest even star-like objects to at least a few light-years, and yet ... nothing.

The other problem is what LDC3 pointed out in their answer: We should see some systematic motion of our own star in orbit around the common center of mass of the hypothetical binary. This would not be a yearly wobble, but rather it would be a slow motion of the entire sky on top of the other >1 year motions that we see. We now have very accurate astronomical records dating back at least a century of star positions, especially close stars. Even if we were on a 26 million year orbit - and especially one much shorter as some people claim - we should see effectively that our star is making a small arc, a part of a circle as it orbits the center of mass of it and the binary. We don't. There does not seem to be any systematic signal in the motions of stars that require the binary star model.

So, to summarize: A binary companion simply lacks any observational data; if it existed, we should not only have been able to see it by now, but we should also observe not only the stars in our sky show a systematic motion due to our orbit around it, but we should again see THAT binary star also move very quickly, relative to other stars, as it orbits the common center of mass.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually it doesn't mean that we aren't part of a binary star system. We could be orbiting 2 sun like stars and not even notice the difference, especially if it is an eclipsing binary system. The truth is that we don't know if our sun has a companion star or not, we only know that of stars farther away from us. $\endgroup$
    – Caters
    Oct 10, 2014 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ Your first and third sentences are not inconsistent with what I said: I very clearly stated that we simply lack observational evidence. And that the evidence that we would expect AND HAVE LOOKED FOR is also absent. Hence why we conclude we are not. Your second sentence does not make any sense. It seems like you're saying we're orbiting two stars very close together. So the sun is two stars? Not possible. If you're trying to say something else, you need to elaborate. The sun being an "eclipsing binary" also does not make any sense. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2014 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ What signature in stellar positions do you think the motion of the Sun in a 26 million year orbit would make? The Sun does have a peculiar motion with respect to the Local Standard of Rest: how can you tell that is not due to a binary companion? $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 14, 2015 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ This answer is really helpful, summarizes current status of experimental information and has some quantitative take-home information. It sounds like it draws this from something that may be published somewhere - can you suggest where I can read more about these limits? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 2, 2016 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ Final conclusion is ok, but 4th paragraph is incorrect. No binary motion would be apparent to us apart from in the motion of a binary companion. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Apr 12, 2018 at 7:13

No, the sun is not part of a binary system. If it was, then there would be a wobble in the stars during the year, due to sun's orbit in a binary system.

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    $\begingroup$ The wobble would be periodic, but not annual. The period would be that of the two stars' orbit around each other. That period would have to be at least several centuries. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2015 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ This needs more qualification or explanation. Yes - any short-period binary motion would be noticeable, but are you suggesting we would see a change in the Sun's peculiar mtion with respect to the Local Standard of Rest? $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Mar 14, 2015 at 8:41

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