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J. L. Levine, E. A. Lada, R. J. Elston (University of Florida)
Surveys of main sequence stars in the solar neighborhood have shown that >50% of sources are members of binary rather than single star systems (Duquennoy & Mayor 1991, Fischer & Marcy 1992). Surprisingly, the frequency of stellar companions in low density star forming regions (e.g. Taurus) is approximately twice as great (i.e. Ghez et al. 1993, Simon et. al. 1995). It is generally accepted, however, that most Galactic field stars are not born in isolation but likely originate in dense stellar clusters embedded in giant molecular clouds (Lada et. al. 1993, Zinnecker et al. 1993). In order to understand the formation and evolution of multiple systems, it is therefore crucial to determine the fraction of binary stars in such clusters. We present the results of a high resolution, K-band survey conducted at the CTIO 4m with tip/tilt of a 30 square arcminute region in the young embedded cluster NGC 2024. The depth of our observations (>90% complete to K~16.5), coupled with the large area surveyed, allowed for the detection of a statistically significant number of sources. Of the ~490 sources detected we find that approximately 360 are members of mulitple systems, with separations in the range from 120-1000 AU. This yields a binary fraction which is significantly higher than the corresponding fraction of binaries in the field.