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UNF receives NASA grant to study eclipsing binary stars

Dr. Marina Kounkel, University of North Florida astrophysics assistant professor, has been awarded a three-year $500K grant from NASA to work in partnership with Vanderbilt University to search for young eclipsing binary stars with known ages. 

Eclipsing binaries are extremely valuable astrophysical laboratories, because with some effort it is possible to determine much about them – how big they are, how massive they are, how hot they are, how they orbit around one another and more. There have been only a few dozen fully “solved” eclipsing binary systems and this study aims to greatly expand that understanding. 

The ages of stars have historically been quite difficult to estimate, and it is only recently that researchers have been able to find many stars in groups with their siblings and be able to determine the age of the entire population. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine how stellar and orbital properties evolve as a function of age.  

Understanding the age of the stars contributes to greater understanding of our world and place in the universe.