Stars That Go Bump in the Night

Apr 29, 2013

Professor Bob Mathieu will share the story of "blue stragglers"--mysterious stars in open clusters that appear younger than they should--at the Iowa County Astronomers meeting at 7 pm Friday, May 3 at Quality Liquid Feeds, 3586 Hwy 23 (one mile north of Dodgeville and Hwy 18/just south of the Don Q Inn). Following the meeting, there will be stargazing at Bethel Horizons if the skies are clear. The meeting is free and open to all astronomy enthusiasts.

"These blue, luminous stars should have used up their hydrogen fuel and flamed out long ago, yet they are still here," says Mathieu. He will share the story of how he used observations from the Kitt Peak Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope to explain the mystery of these blue stragglers. Mathieu is an expert on binary stars whose research has appeared in the journal Nature. His observations have been focused on NGC 188, an old star cluster located 6,000 light years away in the constellation Cepheus near Polaris, the North Star. He uses these observaitons to test the three main theories of blue straggler formation: collisions, mergers and mass transfers. "People have been trying to find distinguishing properties of these stars for 50 years. What blue stragglers are showing us is that life in a star cluster is rarely a lonely existence," says Mathieu.

For more information and a map, visit the group's website at: icastro.org.

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