What’s Going On With The Rarest Stars In The Universe?
“But then there are the weirdos. There are the supermassive stars that collapse directly to black holes, with no supernovae. There are the stars that get so hot that they start spontaneously producing electron/positron pairs on the inside, leading to a special kind of supernova.
There are binary stars that steal mass off of one of the members, sometimes siphoning off all the massive hydrogen from a giant star. There are stars that should have a collapsed object at the center of a still-alive giant star, known as a Thorne-Zytkow object. There are stars, young-and-old, that exhibit extremely rare flaring behavior, like Herbig-Haro objects or Wolf-Rayet stars.
And, yet unconfirmed, there are stars made completely from pristine clouds of gas, composed solely of hydrogen and helium: the first stars in the Universe.”
Stellar astronomy is one of the oldest sciences out there. From the prehistoric moment that humans realized that these distant lights in the sky might be Suns like our own, with their own unique histories and scientific tales to tell, we’ve been fascinated with unlocking the secrets of these objects. Most stars follow a straightforward tale: they form from a cloud of gas, they fuse hydrogen into helium and then possibly even heavier elements, and then they run out of fuel and die, forming a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole, depending on how their demise goes down. But there are always the outliers, the oddballs, and the rarities: the stars that defy conventional explanation. What goes on with those? With hundreds of millions of stars well-measured in our galaxy alone, we’ve found entire classes of strange and fascinating objects to investigate.
This evening, Emily Levesque will deliver a public lecture on the rarest stars in the Universe, and I’ll be live-blogging it over on Forbes! Follow the link and catch it in real-time, at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT from anywhere in the world!