KIC 2856960: the impossible triple star

T. R. Marsh, D. J. Armstrong, P. J. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


KIC 2856960 is a star in the Kepler field which was observed by Kepler for 4 years. It shows the primary and secondary eclipses of a close binary of 0.258d as well as complex dipping events that last for about 1.5d at a time and recur on a 204d period. The dips are thought to result when the close binary passes across the face of a third star. In this paper we present an attempt to model the dips. Despite the apparent simplicity of the system and strenuous efforts to find a solution, we find that we cannot match the dips with a triple star while satisfying Kepler's laws. The problem is that to match the dips the separation of the close binary has to be larger than possible relative to the outer orbit given the orbital periods. Quadruple star models can get round this problem but require the addition of a so-far undetected intermediate period of order 5 -- 20d that has be a near-perfect integer divisor of the outer 204d period. Although we have no good explanation for KIC 2856960, using the full set of Kepler data we are able to update several of its parameters. We also present a spectrum showing that KIC 2856960 is dominated by light from a K3- or K4-type star.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-319
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date24 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

11 pages, 13 figures, accepted for publication in MNRAS August 21, 2014


  • binaries: close
  • binaries: eclipsing


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