Stars That Go Bump in the Night

Contributed press release

DODGEVILLE—Iowa County Astronomers welcome UW-Madison astronomy professor Dr. Robert Mathieu as the guest speaker at their May 3 meeting. Dr. Mathieu will be sharing the story of “blue stragglers”—mysterious stars in open clusters that appear younger than they should. According to Dr. Mathieu, “These blue, luminous stars should have used up their hydrogen fuel and flamed out long ago, yet they are still here.” Dr. Mathieu will share the story of how he used observations from Kitt Peak and the Hubble Space Telescope to explain the mystery of these blue stragglers.

Dr. Mathieu is an expert on binary stars and his research has appeared in the journal Nature. His observations have been focused on NGC 188, on old star cluster located 6,000 light years away in the constellation Cepheus near Polaris, the North Star. He uses these observations 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.”

Iowa County Astronomers invite the public to join Dr. Mathieu for this journey into the strange world of stellar collisions. The talk will be at 7 p.m. May 3 at Quality Liquid Feeds (3586 State Hwy 23 one mile north of Dodgeville and Hwy 18 just south of the Don Q Inn). More info and a map are available at the club website icastro.org. Following the meeting, there will be stargazing at Bethel Horizons if the skies are clear. Club meetings are free and open to all astronomy enthusiasts. The only requirement is the ability to look up and say “wow!”

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