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Structure and Evolution of Stars

Content About: Structure and Evolution of Stars

Published: 08/07/2017 - 12:09pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

The Sun isn’t working the way we thought it did. Many astrophysicists haven't actually understood one aspect of how the Sun worked––until former senior research associate Nick Featherstone and senior research associate Brad Hindman set the record straight.

Stars like the Sun have to get rid of the heat generated by thermonuclear reactions in their centers. The Sun’s secret is vigorous...

Published: 12/13/2016 - 10:13am Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Astrophysicist Jeff Linsky and his colleagues recently created a sophisticated mathematical model of the outer atmosphere of the small M-dwarf star called GJ832. The new model fits well with spectral observations of the star made with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This accomplishment bodes well for two reasons: First, it provides a tool for better understanding M-dwarf stars––the most...

Published: 11/22/2016 - 9:28am Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Galaxy mergers routinely occur in our Universe. And, when they take place, it takes years for the supermassive black holes at their centers to merge into a new, bigger supermassive black hole. However, a very interesting thing can happen when two black holes get close enough to orbit each other every 3–4 months, something that happens just before the two black holes begin their final desperate...

Published: 08/06/2015 - 9:04am Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

When an ordinary star like our Sun wanders very close to a supermassive black hole, it’s very bad news for the star. The immense gravitational pull of the black hole (i.e., tidal forces) overcomes the forces of gravity holding the star together and literally pulls the star apart. Over time, the black hole swallows half of the star stuff, while the other half escapes into the interstellar...

Published: 07/27/2015 - 11:59am Type of Content: News

Graduate student Benjamin Greer has won the 2015 R. N. Thomas Award. The $500 award comes from a fund established by Nora Thomas, the widow of JILA co-founder Dick Thomas. Greer also received a book about Thomas’ storied career in astrophysics.

Greer is a fifth-year graduate student in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences who plans to graduate in December. He works under Fellow Juri...

Published: 08/25/2014 - 11:12am Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

A Be star is a luminous, blue B-type star with distinctive spectral lines that can provide two types of feasts (tasty snacks or full-scale banquets) for a former companion star in a binary system. The feasting begins when the companion star goes supernova and becomes a neutron star or, more rarely, a black hole. Typically, the companion blows up with enough force to kick itself into an...

Published: 02/03/2014 - 8:21am Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Fellows Mitch Begelman and Phil Armitage have just solved the 40-year old mystery of what causes the gas of stellar debris surrounding black holes in binaries to flip back and forth cyclically between a spherical cloud and a luminous disk.

When stellar-sized black holes orbit around another star, the black holes feed themselves by pulling material off their companion stars, funneling it...

Published: 01/08/2013 - 12:26pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Many neutron stars are surrounded by accretion disks. The disks are often made up of matter pulled in by the neutron star’s gravity from a companion star in a binary system. Over time, the neutron stars can swallow so much additional material that they collapse into black holes.

Recently, research associate Bruno Giacomazzo and Fellow Rosalba Perna studied this collapse process in...

Published: 04/10/2013 - 12:17pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Giant planets form inside a disk of gas and dust orbiting a new star. At first, gravitational interactions between the disk and the planets will keep planetary orbits circular, according to Fellow Phil Armitage. But, once the disk begins to disperse, things get very interesting.

Over millions of years, X-rays emitted by the central star evaporate the protoplanetary disk until it...

Published: 03/19/2012 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

On Earth, people use enormous linear accelerators and synchrotrons for such purposes as high-energy physics experiments, chemical composition analysis, and drug research. Linear accelerators ramp up the speeds of electrons and other charged subatomic particles close to the speed of light. Synchrotrons also accelerate charged particles (in a circular track) that, when deflected through...

Published: 12/27/2011 - 5:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Some stars die dramatically – the light from the supernova explosion of a distant massive star can outshine an entire galaxy. But this event isn’t the endgame for the star — the dense remnants of some of these explosions (called neutron stars) can spit out light rays over thousands of years. 

Astronomers have noticed that some of these neutron stars emit bursts of high-energy light...

Published: 08/14/2011 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Supernova 1987A is illuminating its own past. The brightest supernova to light up Earth’s night skies since the Renaissance, it appeared in the southern sky on February 23, 1987 when a blue supergiant star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy located 160,000 light years from Earth. For nearly 25 years, Fellow Dick McCray and his colleagues have studied the unfolding story...

Published: 12/28/2010 - 5:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

There are two competing ideas about the origin of the monster black holes at the center of galaxies. Both include exceptional stars that have never actually been observed: (1) massive population III (Pop III) stars (as big as a thousand Suns) made of pure hydrogen and helium that would have formed less than 100 million years after the Big Bang, and (2) gigantic quasistars whose shining...

Published: 08/17/2010 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Senior research associate Brad Hindman of the Toomre group uses helioseismology to understand what’s happening under the surface of the Sun. Helioseismology is a lot like the ultrasound tests used to evaluate medical conditions. However, there’s a big difference: physicians already have a good idea of the basic structures they are probing with sound waves. Helioseismologists don...

Published: 04/08/2009 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Our comfortably middle-aged Sun completes a rotation once every 28 days. In contrast, young Sun-like stars spin much faster, sometimes whipping around 10 times as quickly. According to widely accepted theory, these young suns build magnetic fields in their convection zones by dynamo processes. Observations of these stars indicate strong magnetic activity. In most stellar dynamo theories,...

Published: 09/29/2008 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Astrophysicists know that the centers of galaxies have supermassive black holes whose size correlates with the size of the galaxy surrounding them. They’ve also observed that galaxies collide and merge. In fact, galactic mergers were even more common billions of years ago in the Universe when today’s galaxies were still being assembled.

So what happens to the original...

Published: 02/09/2008 - 5:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Neutron stars are born in supernovae, spinning very fast. How fast they spin at birth depends on a variety of factors including the initial rotation of the star that goes supernova and what takes place during the supernova explosion. So, if you want to understand these phenomena, one place to start is by investigating how fast a new neutron star can initially spin.

Fellow Rosalba Perna...

Published: 04/08/2007 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Two egg-shaped necklaces of magnificent stars orbit the enormous black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Sgr A* (shown right) has long been thought to be well past promoting new star formation; until the necklaces were discovered, the black hole was considered to be just an aging, depleted relic of its glory days of organizing the Galaxy.

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Published: 04/08/2006 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Juri Toomre and his group concentrate their stellar research close to home – just 93 million miles away, to be precise. They want to answer the question: What dynamic processes occur deep within the Sun? To find out, they use a powerful combination of computer simulations and helioseismology (which analyzes sound waves produced by the Sun to probe its internal structure.) The...

Published: 04/08/2006 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Galaxy clusters contain enormous clouds of gas whose cooling should result in the formation of a multitude of new stars. But that's not what NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is detecting. Instead there's a whole lot less gas cooling and new star formation than scientists had predicted. Perhaps the most mysterious discovery of all is that the clusters are humming – a low B-...

Published: 09/29/2005 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

Gamma-ray jets produced deep within massive stars can blow apart the star when they emerge, creating a supernova. The jets are very light and travel near the speed of light toward the star's surface. They are created by a complex interaction of a black hole, an accretion disk, and very strong magnetic fields that come into being when a massive star depletes its supply of hydrogen fuel...

Published: 09/29/2005 - 6:00pm Type of Content: Article-Research Highlight

For nearly 18 years, JILA Fellow Dick McCray has been studying the brightest supernova to light up Earth's night skies since the Renaissance. Known as 1987A because it appeared in the southern sky on February 23, 1987, the supernova occurred when a 10-million-year-old blue supergiant star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy located 160,000 light years from Earth.

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