Sometimes important astronomical advances require the newest and fanciest observatories and technologies — but sometimes they just require decades of work and a lot of patience. Patience is finally paying off for a team of scientists who have been observing the Sirius star system for nearly 20 years.
Located a mere 8.5 light-years away, the Sirius system consists of the main-sequence star Sirius A and its white-dwarf companion Sirius B. Sirius A is the brightest star in our sky, and Sirius B is the brightest and nearest white dwarf we’ve observed. The unusual proximity and brightness of these stars make them excellent targets for learning about stellar and white-dwarf astrophysics.
In order to interpret our observations, however, we first need to pin down the basic information about these stars. In particular, we want to measure the precise masses and orbital elements for the system — but because the stars orbit each other only once every ~50 years, these properties take time to measure well! … (AAS Nova)