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No. 70: Jul-Aug 1990

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Two Anomalous Types Of Stars

Blue straggler stars. The stars comprising a star cluster are usually assigned the same age, since it is thought that they were all created at the same time that the cluster was formed. Lurking in many star clusters, however, are brighter, bluer nonconformists called "blue straggler stars." These stars seem to have about twice the mass of the "normal" cluster members, and they appear to be only about one-fifth as old as their compatriots. The motions of the blue stragglers are consistent with those of bona fide cluster members, implying that they are not interlopers or foreground objects. Several explanations have been suggested to explain the presence of blue stragglers. One thought is that they harbor asteroid-size black holes at their cores. So far, all of the profferred explanations have serious flaws.

(Fogg, Martyn J.; "Blue Straggler Stars: A Cosmic Anomaly," The Explorer, 6:4, Spring 1990.)

Socket stars.

"A picture book hardly seems a likely source of an astronomical discovery, especially in a world where mysteries of the universe usually tumble from sophisticated electronic instruments attached to huge telescopes. Nevertheless, while recently paging through Exploring the Southern Sky, by G. Madsen and R. West, Walter A. Feibelman (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) recognized something that had caught his attention decades before. High-resolution photographs of nebulae show large numbers of faint stars surrounded by circular or oval 'empty' regions, giving the impression that the stars are sitting in 'sockets,' a few arc seconds across, swept free of nebulosity."

Feibelman rules out photographic effects, such as halation, but has no ready explanation for socket stars.

M.W. Castelez (Allegheny Observatory) has added to the mystery by pointing out that many socket stars show excess infrared emission. He considers this strong evidence that socket stars are surrounded by shells of dust and may represent an unrecognized stage of stellar evolution.

(Anonymous; "Socket Stars," Sky and Telescope, 79:476, 1990.)

From Science Frontiers #70, JUL-AUG 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987