The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review

, Volume 18, Issue 1–2, pp 67–126

Accurate masses and radii of normal stars: modern results and applications

Review Article


This article presents and discusses a critical compilation of accurate, fundamental determinations of stellar masses and radii. We have identified 95 detached binary systems containing 190 stars (94 eclipsing systems, and α Centauri) that satisfy our criterion that the mass and radius of both stars be known within errors of ±3% accuracy or better. All of them are non-interacting systems, and so the stars should have evolved as if they were single. This sample more than doubles that of the earlier similar review by Andersen (Astron Astrophys Rev 3:91–126, 1991), extends the mass range at both ends and, for the first time, includes an extragalactic binary. In every case, we have examined the original data and recomputed the stellar parameters with a consistent set of assumptions and physical constants. To these we add interstellar reddening, effective temperature, metal abundance, rotational velocity and apsidal motion determinations when available, and we compute a number of other physical parameters, notably luminosity and distance. These accurate physical parameters reveal the effects of stellar evolution with unprecedented clarity, and we discuss the use of the data in observational tests of stellar evolution models in some detail. Earlier findings of significant structural differences between moderately fast-rotating, mildly active stars and single stars, ascribed to the presence of strong magnetic and spot activity, are confirmed beyond doubt. We also show how the best data can be used to test prescriptions for the subtle interplay between convection, diffusion, and other non-classical effects in stellar models. The amount and quality of the data also allow us to analyse the tidal evolution of the systems in considerable depth, testing prescriptions of rotational synchronisation and orbital circularisation in greater detail than possible before. We show that the formulae for pseudo-synchronisation of stars in eccentric orbits predict the observed rotations quite well, except for very young and/or widely separated stars. Deviations do occur, however, especially for stars with convective envelopes. The superior data set finally demonstrates that apsidal motion rates as predicted from General Relativity plus tidal theory are in good agreement with the best observational data. No reliable binary data exist, which challenge General Relativity to any significant extent. The new data also enable us to derive empirical calibrations of M and R for single (post-) main-sequence stars above \({0.6\,M_{\odot}}\). Simple, polynomial functions of Teff, log g and [Fe/H] yield M and R within errors of 6 and 3%, respectively. Excellent agreement is found with independent determinations for host stars of transiting extrasolar planets, and good agreement with determinations of M and R from stellar models as constrained by trigonometric parallaxes and spectroscopic values of Teff and [Fe/H]. Finally, we list a set of 23 interferometric binaries with masses known to be better than 3%, but without fundamental radius determinations (except α Aur). We discuss the prospects for improving these and other stellar parameters in the near future.


Stars: fundamental parameters Stars: binaries: eclipsing Stars: binaries: spectroscopic Stars: interiors Stars: evolution 


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Supplementary material

159_2009_25_MOESM1_ESM.txt (27 kb)
ESM 1 (TXT 27 kb)
159_2009_25_MOESM2_ESM.txt (15 kb)
ESM 2 (TXT 15 kb)
159_2009_25_MOESM3_ESM.txt (5 kb)
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159_2009_25_MOESM4_ESM.txt (9 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard-Smithsonian Center for AstrophysicsCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.The Niels Bohr Institute, AstronomyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Nordic Optical Telescope Scientific AssociationLa PalmaSpain
  4. 4.Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC/INTA)Torrejon de ArdozSpain

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