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Space Science

Dying Star Mimics Our Sun's Death 149

Posted by kdawson
from the telltale-heart dept.
coondoggie writes "In about 5 billion years, our Sun will face a nasty death. Scientists with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics this week released dramatic new pictures of a dying star much like the Sun, about 550 light-years from Earth. According to the researchers, Chi Cygni has swollen in size to become a red giant star so large that if it were in our solar system it would swallow every planet out to Mars and cook the asteroid belt. The star has started to pulse dramatically, beating like a giant heart with a period of 408 days." The research team produced a video of the pulsating star, using infrared images captured via very long baseline interferometry.
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Dying Star Mimics Our Sun's Death

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  • Weird video...? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by qinjuehang (1195139) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:35AM (#30455006) Homepage
    It really really looks like a elliptical eclipsing binary, with one dim red giant, and a bright smaller white star. Note: The video is false color.
  • Re:Older than dirt (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:17AM (#30455120)

    xkcd has a similar idea: Abstraction [xkcd.com]

  • Re:Worst case (Score:4, Interesting)

    by francium de neobie (590783) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:44AM (#30455196)
    Again, what's up with the negativity?

    First, why would other intelligent life bother to stop us? Because resources in the universe is scarce? Last time I checked we haven't discovered any Dyson Sphere built around any of the stars in the Milky Way. And why has nobody scooped up all the intergalactic medium in outer space? Have our telescopes seen anybody moving stars around for energy transport? People using the beam from active galactic nuclei as weapons? No? If those ultra-intelligent life are really as good as they're hyped up to be, why aren't we seeing some totally amazing stuff happening all around us?

    Second thing, it didn't really take much time for life to appear on Earth on a cosmic timescale. If you look at the time it took for our solar system and life to form, it is actually on the same order of magnitude to the whole history of the whole universe itself [wikipedia.org]. If we're one of the late-comers, shouldn't we find that the universe has formed 1 trillion years ago, our solar system has only formed in the last 5 billion years, and life only in the last 2 billion years? Instead, what we're seeing now is, the universe formed some 13 billion years ago, our solar system formed 9 billion years ago, and life appeared in the last 3.5 billion years [wikipedia.org]. There's actually a pretty decent chance that we're one of the earliest intelligent life in the universe.

    You know, if immortality is within reach of my generation, I'm totally looking forward to have an AGN as my toy.
  • ObXKCD (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:52AM (#30455230)

    http://xkcd.com/676/ [xkcd.com] which happens to appear with exquisite timing

  • Disfactual SD FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:06AM (#30456452) Journal

    The folks at Harvard-Smithsonian and IOTA did some fine work. It could have been reported as they presented it and been very interesting science. When it gets filtered through a fake science reporting agent like Science Daily, and rewritten by one of said agent's fiction writers with only enough relevant background to make them capable of finding FUDish material that wouldn't be entirely inapplicable, the result is something that should have been rejected by the only places to which it should have been submitted: Hollywood movie producers.

    The sun is a nearly a dwarf star. It will undergo a very mild death compared to larger stars. They will nova or supernova, but the sun will placidly swell to a red giant, pulse as it burns out, then shrink to white dwarf. Only true dwarf stars will undergo a milder demise, skipping the red giant phase. No amount of mediocre Hollywood scifi horrification and awfulism will change the fact that our mild mannered stellar companion has no evil supervillian alter ego waiting to take over at its end of days. Adding such extraneous comic book (as opposed to the more respectable graphic fiction) "reporting" is only done by a writer, or at the behest of an editor or publisher, who have no confidence in the science itself or their reportage of it being sufficiently interesting. rather than risk being factual for a readership interested in such things, they attempt to draw in a greater audience with an interest and education in science equal to that of the author's writing style, with the assumption that by adding the pseudo-scientific car wreck material they can get that larger audience to slow down and rubber neck at the bloody mess of hyperbole spray painted over the facts.

    SD is as useful and accurate a source for science as The Economist, which has also been quoted here for similarly poor reasons. Slashdotters are for the most part sophisticated enough to be able to appreciate the facts without having to viddy the horrorshow while sipping a bit of the moloko plus (obSFref, Clockwork Orange). Th remainder, while not so inclined to factualism in science, are still so invariably capable when it comes to traditional /. reply banter that an article consisting of raw data would likely end up in a verbal tsunami repleat with references to Microsoft, Google and MafIAA (blaming them for the stellar death no doubt) and welcoming our Red Giant Overlords and their Soviet Russian Beowulf Clusters.

    The very worst part of this example of poor writing in lieu of science journalism is being kept separate because it has nothing to do with science. Something that is happening now (or being observed now, relatively speaking) does not and can not mimic something that will happen in the future, whether that be in 5 billion years, or next week when you accept a job writing equally badly for an outlet equally unwilling to risk actual factual journalism. Unless, of course, one an say that one's present insufficient income from writing such trash mimics the income one will receive in the future when one continues of a career path of writing badly for outlets intentionally presenting said trash. All the more reason to stay in school, kids, and if you quit, go back.

    Now, I don't expect /. readers to follow Astrophysical Journal and the like in order to get unadulterated science to report on here. But I would hope that the submitters and editors would at least acknowledge the quality of the sources by presenting them such as "With their typical crunchy coating of fiction, fact mangling and FUD surrounding a center of creamy scientific nougat still untouched by science journalists' hands, Science Daily reassures us that it is 'an excellent driver' while setting fire to and waving madly an interesting article" dot dot dot.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @10:34AM (#30457312)
    A hugely expanded sun would be a hot, tenuous gas by the time it expands to earth orbit. People could acutal live in it with minor protection. But the hot gas would relentlessly erode anything on the earth's surface. And eventually it would corrode away the earth itself after millions of years.
  • Re:Disfactual SD FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @11:25AM (#30458026)

    What specific objections do you have? You've rambled on but it strikes me that most of the content you object to comes from the CfA's own press release.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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