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Friday, June 01, 2007


Surface images of Altair

A Science Daily article alerted me to something I found quite amazing. We can map the surfaces of stars. Well, give that we can map the surfaces of exoplanets, maybe I shouldn't be surprised. However, the article reprots the ampping of the surface of Altair, a hot, rapidly rotating tstar that is the brightest star in the constellation of Aquilla the Eagle. You can read the abstract of the primary article here. Not surprsingly, as a fast rotator, Altair comes out as an elipsoid, rather than a sphere. Interestingly, it shows the phenomenon of "Gravity Darkening", where the gas of the stellar surface near the equator is cooler and less dense due to the rotational bulge.

Other stars, such as Vega, Alderamin, and Betelgeuse have been mapped before (I didn't know that), but this is the first time a main sequence star has been mapped.

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