SS Cygni is a variable star in the northern constellation Cygnus (the Swan). It is the prototype of the subclass of dwarf novae that show only normal eruptions. It typically rises from 12th magnitude to 8th magnitude for 1–2 days every 7 or 8 weeks. The northerly declination of SS Cygni (about 44° N) makes the star almost circumpolar from European and North American latitudes, allowing a large proportion of the world's amateur astronomers to monitor its behavior. Furthermore, since the star lies against the rich backdrop of the Milky Way band, the telescope field of view around SS Cygni contains an abundance of useful brightness comparison stars.

SS Cygni
A visual band light curve for SS Cygni, plotted from AAVSO data[1]
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Cygnus
Right ascension 21h 42m 42.8034s[2]
Declination +43° 35′ 09.864″[2]
Apparent magnitude (V) 7.7–12.4[3]
Spectral type K5V[4]
Variable type Dwarf nova[3]
Radial velocity (Rv)−16.1[5] km/s
Proper motion (μ) RA: 112.373±0.113[2] mas/yr
Dec.: 33.589±0.094[2] mas/yr
Parallax (π)8.7242 ± 0.0491 mas[2]
Distance372±7 ly
(114±2[6] pc)
Period (P)0.27512973 days
Inclination (i)45–56°
Semi-amplitude (K1)
162.5±1.0 km/s
Red dwarf
Mass0.55±0.13[5] M
Temperature4,560[5] K
White dwarf
Mass0.81±0.2[5] M
Other designations
SS Cyg, HD 206697, BD+42 4189a, TYC 3196-723-1
Database references
SS Cygni in outburst versus its quiet state

SS Cygni, like all other cataclysmic variables, consists of a close binary system. One of the components is a red dwarf-type star, cooler than the Sun, while the other is a white dwarf. Studies suggest that the stars in the SS Cygni system are separated (from surface to surface) by "only" 100,000 miles or less. The two stars are so close that they complete their orbital revolution in slightly over 6+12 hours. The inclination of the system has been calculated to be about 50 degrees, yielding masses of 0.6 solar mass (M) for the white dwarf primary star and 0.4 M for the red dwarf secondary star.[7]

Astronomically speaking, SS Cygni is also fairly close by. Originally thought to be at 90 to 100 light years,[8] its distance was revised in 1952 to about 400 light years. In 2007 Hubble Space Telescope data indicated a distance of about 540 light years, though this value caused difficulties with the theory of dwarf novae;[9] this was checked during 2010–2012 using radio astrometry with VLBI, which yielded a smaller distance of 114 ± 2 parsecs (371.8 ± 6.5 ly).[6] This value is much more in accord with the old (≈400 light-year) value, and it removes completely the difficulties the larger HST distance made for the theory of dwarf novae.


  1. ^ "Download Data". AAVSO. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Brown, A. G. A.; et al. (Gaia collaboration) (August 2018). "Gaia Data Release 2: Summary of the contents and survey properties". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 616. A1. arXiv:1804.09365. Bibcode:2018A&A...616A...1G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201833051. Gaia DR2 record for this source at VizieR.
  3. ^ a b Samus, N. N.; Durlevich, O. V.; et al. (2009). "VizieR Online Data Catalog: General Catalogue of Variable Stars (Samus+ 2007–2013)". VizieR On-line Data Catalog: B/GCVS. Originally Published in: 2009yCat....102025S. 1. Bibcode:2009yCat....102025S.
  4. ^ North, R. C; Marsh, T. R; Kolb, U; Dhillon, V. S; Moran, C. K. J (2002). "The systemic velocities of four long-period cataclysmic variable stars". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 337 (4): 1215–1223. arXiv:astro-ph/0201538. Bibcode:2002MNRAS.337.1215N. doi:10.1046/j.1365-8711.2002.05795.x. S2CID 18226730.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bitner, Martin A; Robinson, Edward L; Behr, Bradford B (2007). "The Masses and Evolutionary State of the Stars in the Dwarf Nova SS Cygni". The Astrophysical Journal. 662 (1): 564–573. arXiv:astro-ph/0703087. Bibcode:2007ApJ...662..564B. doi:10.1086/517496. S2CID 18660737.
  6. ^ a b J. C. A. Miller-Jones; G. R. Sivakoff; C. Knigge; E. G. Körding; et al. (24 May 2013). "An Accurate Geometric Distance to the Compact Binary SS Cygni Vindicates Accretion Disc Theory". Science. 340 (6135): 950–952. arXiv:1305.5846. Bibcode:2013Sci...340..950M. doi:10.1126/science.1237145. PMID 23704566. S2CID 6502343.
  7. ^ Honey, W.B.; et al. (1989). "Quiescent and Outburst Photometry of the Dwarf Nova SS Cygni". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 236 (4): 727–734. Bibcode:1989MNRAS.236..727H. doi:10.1093/mnras/236.4.727.
  8. ^ Burnham, Robert Jr. (1978). Burnham's Celestial Handbook. New York: Dover.
  9. ^ M. R. Schreiber; J.P. Lasota (2007). "The dwarf nova SS Cygni: what is wrong?". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 473 (3): 897–901. arXiv:0706.3888. Bibcode:2007A&A...473..897S. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078146. S2CID 15133017.

External linksEdit