Robotic observations of the most eccentric spectroscopic binary in the sky

The visual A component of the Gliese 586AB system is a double-lined spectroscopic binary consisting of two cool stars with the exceptional orbital eccentricity of 0.976. Such an extremely eccentric system may be important for our understanding of low-mass binary formation. We present a total of 598 high-resolution echelle spectra from our robotic facility STELLA from 2006-2012 which we used to compute orbital elements of unprecedented accuracy. The orbit constrains the eccentricity to 0.97608+/-0.00004 and the orbital period to 889.8195+/-0.0003d. The masses of the two components are 0.87+/-0.05 Msun and 0.58+/-0.03 Msun if the inclination is 5+/-1.5degr as determined from adaptive-optics images, that is good to only 6% due to the error of the inclination although the minimum masses reached a precision of 0.3%. The flux ratio Aa:Ab in the optical is betwee n 30:1 in Johnson-B and 11:1 in I. Radial velocities of the visual B-component (K0-1V) appear constant to within 130 m/s over six years. Sinusoidal modulations of Teff of Aa with an amplitude of apprx 55 K are seen with the orbital period. Component Aa appears warmest at periastron and coolest at apastron, indicating atmospheric changes induced by the high orbital eccentricity. No light variations larger than approximately 4 mmag are detected for A, while a photometric period of 8.5+/-0.2 d with an amplitude of 7 mmag is discovered for the active star B, which we interpret to be its rotation period. We estimate an orbital period of approx 50,000 yr for the AB system. The most likely age of the AB system is >=2 Gyr, while the activity of the B component, if it were a single star, would imply 0.5 Gyr. Both Aa and B are matched with single-star evolutionary tracks of their respective mass.

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Date added: Wed, 9 Oct 13