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CosmosUp | July 21, 2019

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5 Inexplicable Stellar Mysteries

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The Sun’s Mysterious Cousins


Around a third of Sun-like stars have year-long periods of varied brightness as they approach the ends of their lives. Christine Nicholls, an astronomer from Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia, led a study into the decades-old question of why this happens.

The conclusion was clear, and told us exactly what we already knew: “All the possible explanations for their unusual behavior just fail.”

Nicholls’s team monitored 58 stars for 2.5 years. A leading theory for the variations was stellar pulsations, in which the stars grow and shrink. That option was discounted, along with the possibility that the stars were in binary systems. However, the team did discover a new clue—the changing stars eject clumps of mass during their transitions. Unfortunately, clues are useless without the right detective, and Nicholls said that “a Sherlock Holmes is needed to solve this very frustrating mystery.”


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