DI Herculis Revisited: Starspots, Gravity Darkening, and 3D Obliquities

Yan Liang, Joshua N. Winn, Simon H. Albrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


DI Herculis is an eclipsing binary famous for a longstanding disagreement between theory and observation of the apsidal precession rate, which was resolved when both stars were found to be severely misaligned with the orbit. We used data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to refine our knowledge of the stellar obliquities and sharpen the comparison between the observed and theoretical precession rates. The TESS data show variations with a 1.07 day period, which we interpret as rotational modulation from starspots on the primary star. This interpretation is supported by the detection of photometric anomalies during primary eclipses consistent with starspot crossings. The secondary eclipse light curve shows a repeatable asymmetry that we interpret as an effect of gravity darkening. By combining the TESS data with previously obtained data, we determined the three-dimensional spin directions of both stars. Using this information, the updated value of the theoretical apsidal precession rate (including the effects of tides, rotation, and general relativity) is 1.35-0.50+0.58 arcsec cycle-1. The updated value of the observed rate (after including new TESS eclipse times) is 1.41-0.28+0.39 arcsec cycle-1. Given the agreement between the observed and theoretical values, we fitted all the relevant data simultaneously, assuming the theory is correct. This allowed us to place tighter constraints on the stellar obliquities, which are 75-3+3 and 80-3+3 degrees for the primary and secondary stars, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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