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Polish astronomers attempt to solve pulsating blue stars puzzle

Astronomers know more about BLAPS than they did in 2013, but the details of their origins and evolution remain murky.

By Brooks Hays
Polish astronomers attempt to solve pulsating blue stars puzzle
Scientists have identified an unusual new class of rapidly pulsating, blue stars. Photo by Paweł Pietrukowicz

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A team of astronomers is trying to account for a mysterious new class of rapidly pulsating blue stars.

Researchers first discovered the unusual pulsating stars -- detailed this week in the journal Nature Astronomy -- during a 2013 survey.

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Since then, the team of Polish scientists have returned to the Chilean desert several times to get a better grasp on what makes these stars tick.

Unlike the sun, pulsating stars aren't stable. They periodically expand and contract -- growing and shrinking, brightening and dimming. Cepheids and RR Lyrae stars feature surface oscillation periods between a few hours and several hundred days. But the newly discovered class of stars features oscillation periods as brief as 20 to 40 minutes.

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In addition to their past paced pulsation, the new stars are hotter, more compact and bluer in color.

"The objects are significantly bluer than main-sequence stars observed in the same fields, which indicates that all of them are hot stars," astronomer wrote in their newly published paper.

In their new paper on the stellar anomalies, researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nurember suggest naming the new stars BLAPS, short for Blue Large-Amplitude Pulsators.

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Astronomers know more about BLAPS than they did in 2013, but the details of their origins and evolution remain murky. Astronomers originally hypothesized that BLAPS were a type of hot dwarf star. Hot dwarfs are older stars that rapidly pulsate as their thermonuclear cores convert helium into carbon. The sun's stellar fusion turns helium into hydrogen.

Detailed analysis of several BLATS suggests the stars boast extremely hot temperatures comparable to hot dwarfs. But BLATS are significantly bigger than hot dwarfs.

For now, why and how BLAPS came to be so bloated and oscillate so quickly remains a mystery -- a mystery to be solved by future investigations.

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