Nightfall

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a sextuply-eclipsing sextuple star system. I think of “Nightfall”.

The six stars of TCY 7037-89-I orbit each other in three binary pairs, as in the schematic. The primaries are slightly larger and hotter than our sun and the secondaries are about a half as large and a third as hot. All stars eclipse each other as seen from Earth, and a neural network helped identify them from the TESS light curves.

A sextuply-eclipsing sextuple star system

A sextuply-eclipsing sextuple star system, discovered with TESS, January 2021

In 1941, a Columbia University chemistry graduate student published one of the most famous short stories of science fiction’s Golden Age. Isaac Asimov‘s “Nightfall” imagines a planet orbiting six suns with a civilization evolved in perpetual daylight. Only once every 2000 years does an undiscovered moon eclipse a sun when it is alone in the sky plunging the civilization into darkness — and revealing tens of thousands of newly visible stars!

Isaac Asimov's first cover story, Nightfall, Astounding Science Fiction, September 1941

Isaac Asimov’s first cover story, “Nightfall”, Astounding Science Fiction, September 1941

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow New York and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and North Carolina State University. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and variable stars.
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