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Dying Star Mimics Our Sun's Death

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the telltale-heart dept.

Space 149

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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Stop mimicking me! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454876)

Mom, he won't stop saying whatever I say!

Re:Stop mimicking me! (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454994)

Well, sun, you're so bright, take care of it yourself.

Re:Stop mimicking me! (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455208)

I bet you think that pun is just brilliant.

Re:Stop mimicking me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455240)

It's hard for me to look right at it!

Re:Stop mimicking me! (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455248)

Your wit is illuminating.

Re:Stop mimicking me! (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455380)

the brother was hit in the solar plexus and saws stars for awhile

Re:Stop mimicking me! (-1, Troll)

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First! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454878)


Do we care? (1, Flamebait)

iamacat (583406) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454892)

We'll be long gone - either in spacial or temporal sense - in a tiny fraction of that time. Even if there are no asteroid impact, killer viruses and so on, we will eventually deplete all natural resources - including ones need to make solar cells and wind turbines - and release enough long-lasting pollutants to make life unsustainable. So, an interesting astronomical curiosity, but no impact on our distant descendants. Now lets go work on being gone spacialy.

Re:Do we care? (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454910)

Sometimes we study things just to scratch an itch, or possibly because the object under study might be of indirect relevance to us [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Do we care? (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454912)

and release enough long-lasting pollutants to make life unsustainable.

Huh? I might buy that we could kill ourselves off but it seems to be giving us too much credit to assume that we could kill off all life on this rock. Life has been around in one form or another for billions of years and has survived far more cataclysmic events than anything we could ever hope to dish out.

Re:Do we care? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454924)

Life has been around in one form or another for 6,000 years


Re:Do we care? (1)

druuna (1097839) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457742)

I beg to differ....

If humans destroy the ozone layer, everything living dies and a bare rock going approximately 107278.87 km/h is all that is left.

Re:Do we care? (come on!!!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454958)

ahhh okay!
I suppose that we must live on the trees, thinking how we feed our children.
But... I just think on that before and that don't really work for us h-been [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human]

Now really? You don't care?
Come on man, It's ./ "news for NERDs. stuff that matters"

If you don't care, you are @wrong pLace! :p

[1POST here, I don't resist.]

Best regards,



Re:Do we care? (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455020)

Disagree. I think a small human population (in the millions) will be around on Earth to witness the event.
    I don't think the planet will be healthy enough for 7 billion of us, but I also don't think it will be poisoned enough to drop the population to 0 before Sol expires.
    I also think we'll be content in sending bacteria to other worlds rather than humans - they are a much more resilient and adaptable species really - humans are too dependent on a tight range of environmental conditions to live in other worlds, we just need to make the best of what we have here.

Re:Do we care? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455044)

Let's hope that they're the last of the religious humans. What better way to rapture than to be taken by
the sun / god / $PARENTAL_FIGURE ?

Re:Do we care? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455276)

Even if - there won't be much difference in relation to current faiths (assuming also that there would be any humans left - those are two immense "if"). Just look at our historical record - mythologies don't survive even few thousands years, even when we do have good record of them.

They are just becoming fairytales for adherents of mythologies prevalent at given time (little do they realize that it will be the same with theirs...)

Add to the above that we have no way of determining the state, type of society or even consciousness 5 billion years from now - but it will be most certainly quite alien, not easily falling under our criteria.

Re:Do we care? (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455242)

I think you have a hard time (as all of us do) imagining the time periods involved. There was even no mammals 1/10th of that 5 billion years ago; heck, life hadn't really colonized land yet.

And anyway, the Sun is slowly becoming brighter as time passes; in around 1 billion years theere will be no oceans left on Earth, no biosphere.

Re:Do we care? (4, Informative)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455928)

The Sun is slowly getting hotter (over timescales of hundreds of millions of years) due to changes in the composition of its core. In about one billion years this increase in temperature will be enough to have boiled off Earth's oceans making Earth a dead planet. This will happen long before the Sun becomes a red giant, so unfortunately there will be no humans around to witness it, unless if we leave first and pay a visit to watch Sol's demise.

Re:Do we care? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30456214)

Disagree. I think a small human population (in the millions) will be around on Earth to witness the event.

I don't think the future humans will call themselves homo sapiens sapiens within a half a million years, let alone few billion. Whatever the species will be which will witness the event form sufficient distance, they need to be able to live past the event for it to have some significance.
Our beloved Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda in about 2 billion years like an intergalactic ejaculation. If the Earth has not been sterilized by asteroids by then, perhaps the radiation resulting from the collision will finish the job.

Re:Do we care? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455102)

Do we know whether we should care? With what certainty?

Not studying that which is far can be dangerous, as ignorance of the reality can bring ignorance about the very distance that made us disregard that knowledge.

Re:Do we care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455110)

I don't see why we would be gone. Even after our sun goes boom, provided we manage to get some of ourselves off this rock on a permanent basis, parts of our solar system will still be livable, such as some of the moons of the gas giants, floating cities in the atmosphere of the gas giants at an elevation where the air pressure is one atmosphere (Jupiters surface gravity is 2 1/2 times ours which would be a problem for normal humans, but for Saturn and Uranus the surface gravity is actually slightly less than that of Earth and Neptunes is about 10% more than Earth, so there's not much of a problem there), any of the hundreds or thousands of dwarf planets and other massive objects past Neptune, not to mention any of the millions or billions of artificial human habitats humans could construct in the given time frame, even with current technology if we stopped dithering and got around to it. As for depletion of natural resources, there are plenty out there, the only really important resource is energy, and we'll still be getting lots of that from the sun even after it turns into a red giant. For cases where that isn't true and there's some rare element that we need for some vital purpose, we will probably eventually be able to just make more (at high energy cost) if the need is urgent enough. We've achieved part of the goal of the alchemists and been able to make gold from lead (easier to make gold from platinum though, or lead from gold) for decades now, the costs just aren't worth the returns. To my knowledge, there's no natural barrier to making any element we want even with current technology, it just has to be valuable enough to warrant the massive expenditure.

Older than dirt (1, Insightful)

iamapizza (1312801) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454922)

1) We learned about this in school
2) The picture is an artist's conception, I didn't see multiple pictures in TFA.
3) ???
4) Profit

Re:Older than dirt (5, Insightful)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455022)

Yeah, the crime of the modern educational system is that it produces people who know all the answers and have no sense of wonder. That "older than dirt" guy probably looks at a computer and only sees a white box.

You should look at a computer and see the thread of execution hopping between kernel routines and pausing at mutexes. You should see the electrons whooshing through the silicon, underneath an overhanging crystalline gate electrode. You should feel the electric field sucking at you: it's almost strong enough to rip electrons out of the SiO2 dielectric. And back up at higher level, those spin locks should be like an amusement park ride: puke your guts out if you go around in one for more than a few microseconds. :)

Yah, we knew stars became red giants. But that's not the right way to look at it.

Re:Older than dirt (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455120)

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

Re:Older than dirt (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455144)

Hey, that's the script for Tron.

Now where did I leave my de-rezzed bike and neon strobe jumpsuit ?

ObXKCD (2, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455230)

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

Re:Older than dirt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30456472)

Yeah, the crime of the modern educational system is that it produces people who believe they know all the answers and have no sense of wonder. ...

Fixed that for you.

Re:Older than dirt (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456690)

The education system has been death spiraling ever since Socrates corrupted the youth of Athens.

Re:Older than dirt (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457142)

I'm a geezer, but I agree with you -- but it's not geezers that see a computer as a black box, it's those uneducated in its workings. How many young people do you know that have programmed in assembly?

And I think you missed his main point, that the article's headline was disingenuous at least. If they have photos, why show an artist's conception? As he said, TFA didn't say anything I didn't read about when I was seven, and that was fifty years ago.

TFA is pure bunk. It's only good point is that you can google for the actual photos.

Re:Older than dirt (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455056)

What up you sorry European pieces of shit? Yeah, you know what you are you maggot fuckers. You rat bastards are crawling out of your third world caves right about now to go defecate on the train on the way to the fucking gulag shit job you work at you socialist pricks. Why don't you fucks invent something instead of trying to take credit for other peoples' work? Fucking Linux is just a rip off of Unix and you fucking know it. Euro-tards can't even come up with one legitimate operating system. And don't give me that Symbian shit and make me laugh even harder. Could you imagine a smelly European coming up with technology to rival Windows 7 or BSD or OSX? Hahahahahah!! Yeah, I know, tell you another one right? You people are pathetic. Where are the European Googles? The Microsofts? The Apples? The Oracles? The IBM's? They don't exist do they? Because Europeans are complete fucking idiots.

Fucking sorry motherfuckers. I hope you all just reach in your pants, pinch your butt cheeks off and die a horrible blood filled death.

Re:Older than dirt (1, Troll)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455156)

Konrad Zuse (1910-1995) is recognized as the inventor of the first freely programmable computer, and he was European, German to be precise.

Now STFU, stupid American.

Re:Older than dirt (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455204)

Oh, well damn. A nasty filthy Eurotrash fuckwad like you can pull some 'tard shit out of his ass. I'm sure you're typing on one of Zuse's designs right now, right? And surely you're using an operating system he had a hand in designing too, correct? Oh, you're not? I'm shocked. You mean to say an American designed both the Operating System and computer you are using. You say Steve Wozniak, an American if there ever was one, designed and produced the first personal computer? You mean to tell me that the graphical user interface you are using right now had its roots at Xerox? An American company? Say it isn't so.

You and your people are pathetic. Die now.

Re:Older than dirt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455510)

Awww, what's the matter? Is Angry Fatty angry about something? There there, you go blame everyone else for your wasted life. There there, don't cry, Angry Fatty, someone will comfort you and make you feel better! Probably not a girl, though, Angry Fatty doesn't get girls, does he?

Re:Older than dirt (2, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455792)

I have one word for you: Babbage [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Older than dirt (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457104)

Please don't feed the trolls. Your response only encourages them.

Re:Older than dirt (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457758)

Could you imagine a smelly European coming up with technology to rival Windows 7

No, thankfully.

[Exit, whistling Beethoven's 9th]

Re:Older than dirt (1)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455070)

Rated "insightful"? Claiming that astronomy is done for profit?

Re:Older than dirt (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455390)

The exact same picture was used in other sites as an artist's conception of Betelgeuse...

Re:Older than dirt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30456604)

Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox came from there?

Re:Older than dirt (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457074)

Older than dirt!? So what, this could happen like any moment then??

global warming (3, Funny)

fearlezz (594718) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454926)

So in about 5 billion years we won't hear all that global warming talk anymore?

Re:global warming (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454948)

I assure you it will be pretty warm when the Sun turns into a Red Giant.

Re:global warming (0, Offtopic)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454954)

It's called climate change now. That way the dumbasses can say," We've never been at war with global warming, we've always been at war with global cooling"

And so it goes.

Re:global warming (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455378)

Everyone will be talking about solar warming by then.

Don't Panic (1)

shreshtha (1609099) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454932)

We humans will destroy earth and Life much before this Star Life process gets its chance to do so. I wished to die the star way...

Re:Don't Panic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454988)

Is fatalism the new cool thing?

It's nearly impossible for us to absolutely destroy life on this planet. Even in a very worst case scenario, some (by which I actually mean many) single-celled organisms would survive and evolution would take off again. Of course, that's no guarantee for sapience to re-evolve in the allotted 5 billion years.

Solar cookery (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454946)

Asterid belt... Is that a fish dish? Sounds Norwegian

long kiss goodnight (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454976)

At least we have time to read a bedtime story

Global warming (1)

top3dentists (1701452) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454980)

Isnt something we are seeing in the movie of 2012. Nothing to panic we humans would destroy the earth lot before by global warming therefore essential for us to have a solution for global warming.

Re:Global warming (0, Troll)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455796)

we humans would destroy the earth lot before by global warming

      Apparently we're going to have to work a lot harder to do that because the Earth has been through (and shrugged off) far worse [liveleak.com] changes than the current one.

      Now consider that along with the fact that recently Dr. Maslowski confirmed that Al Gore was misusing and misquoting data supplied by him to support his political agenda. Consider the mere fact that the push for the idea of "global warming" is coming from the POLITICAL, not the scientific, end of society. Consider the fact that "global warming" has opened up a multi-billion dollar a year "carbon offset" market, and new taxation revenue streams for government.

      There is a motive to convince you that the world is going to end. People are willing to believe the world will end for any reason, from the arrival of comets, to planetary alignments and eclipses, to the "return" of "the son of man" (who is coming soon - any day now...). If politicians start clamoring for it, and misuse scientific data to "back up" their claims, there are any number of sheep who will bleat to that tune. To the point where people are already turning violent at "protests" - which can only represent a certain degree of fanaticism about the subject. But simply believing something to be true DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE.

      Still, don't worry. The oil won't last forever. In fact, once we reach peak oil, its availability will diminish dramatically due to exorbitant prices (look what happened when oil reached a mere $150/bbl, now imagine it at $1500/bbl) as countries compete for the last drops of oil and society has NO CHOICE but to switch to alternative energy. Since the Earth has already demonstrated that it has returned from far worse temperatures/CO2 levels than today, even if global warming was "man-made", the Earth will purge itself of "our pollution" in a few hundred years once we stop "polluting the atmosphere with our CO2".

      However if it's not man-made, well, temperatures are going to rise even when the oil is gone. That will have a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering why they're paying all those carbon taxes in 100 years or so, when oil production/consumption is diminished or negligible. And they will stay at their peak for a hundred years or so. I can imagine some politicians in the far future patting themselves on the back when temperatures return to normal...


Is that a dish? (1)

Sparx139 (1460489) | more than 5 years ago | (#30454984)

Is an asterid belt some new meal from Burger King or something?

Where are the pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454986)

In the SD link I can see "an artist's conception" of the dying star. This can be misleading. On the other hand, the video is cool. It could be cooler if it was accompanied by a TARDIS sound effect... [youtube.com]

Tour de force (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30454990)

Damn, that's beautiful. Just thinking about the image processing and telescopes behind this gives me goose pimples.

Re:Tour de force (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455036)

Is it like the tingling sensation you get before the herpes begin to pustulate?

Worst case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455000)

What's up with all the negativity here? Didn't it occur that just maybe, we would manage to get off this rock and start colonizing the rest of the universe way before that happens.

Re:Worst case (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455048)

Not if the intelligent life out there has any capability to stop us.

There must be intelligent life in the universe, because none of them have contacted us yet. Joy-riding adolescent hooligans do not count, regardless of what they're riding, driving, or, flying.

Re:Worst case (3, Interesting)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Worst case (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455646)

Last time I checked we haven't discovered any Dyson Sphere built around any of the stars in the Milky Way.

      Sorry to nitpick but - kind of by definition, if someone managed to build a Dyson sphere around their star to harvest all of it's solar output, we wouldn't see that star. Just like you can't see a match when it's in a box. Possibly the only way to detect it would be via its gravity.

Re:Worst case (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456064)

if someone managed to build a Dyson sphere around their star to harvest all of it's solar output, we wouldn't see that star. Just like you can't see a match when it's in a box. Possibly the only way to detect it would be via its gravity.

Not so. The Dyson sphere would reradiate all the star's output as waste heat at whatever temperature the inhabitants liked to live. It would look like a large infrared giant, instead of a small yellow star.

Re:Worst case (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457296)

Arthur C Clarke once mused that gamma ray bursts were alien industrial accidents.

Re:Worst case (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457370)

There must be intelligent life in the universe, because none of them have contacted us yet.

I think your tongue is firmly in your cheek with that twisted logic, but for the wooshful among us, it's possible that our solar system is the first for life to develop at all. There may not only not be intelligent life elsewhere, there may not be any life at all except here. We just don't know yet.

Weird video...? (3, Interesting)

qinjuehang (1195139) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455006)

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:Weird video...? (1)

Katchu (1036242) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455088)

Those were my thoughts, also. There is something asymmetrical about it and I can't imagine anything that would cause such a roiling, yet periodic, effect.

Re:Weird video...? (1)

qinjuehang (1195139) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455126)

If it were really a star pulsating, shouldn't it show irregular patches? I mean, granulation in our sun is not static over a year... Thus I believe they are overlooking the obvious.

Re:Weird video...? (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455746)

I assume that the star is tilted relative to us and there's some anisotropy of the atmosphere due to its oblate shape. If the poles were hotter and one was tilted at us, I guess.

Re:Weird video...? (1)

KnownIssues (1612961) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457388)


Re:Weird video...? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457636)

RTFA: “Observations by the Infrared Optical Telescope Array found that, at minimum radius, Chi Cygni shows marked inhomogeneities due to roiling "hotspots" on its surface.”

Of course, that is only a theory, too.

dying star (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455008)

oh my god you had me scared there for a minit I thought it said 5 thousand

solar cookery (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455064)

Asterid belt... is that a fish dish? Sounds Norwegian...

Link to images, etc. (5, Informative)

severn2j (209810) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455094)

For those that cant follow links to the source, the images/mov and artists impression is here


Re:Link to images, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455310)

I remember this http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso0927a/ picture of Betelgeuse, where the news of the day was it's bulge on. Whoever thought that Chi Cygni is it's evil twin?

Mimics something that hasn't happened? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455266)

Our sun hasn't died yet, so shouldn't it be the other way around? In a few billion years, our sun will mimic the death of this star.

Alright, I'm done being pedantic now.

Re:Mimics something that hasn't happened? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455694)

Technically, it is relative to the observer, especially since stars may be reborn.

Comforting thoughts (2, Funny)

ignavus (213578) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455308)

It's alright. The Yellowstone Caldera will blow up long before then and kill us all. So we won't be around to face the heat death of the Sun.

It is good to know these things.

Re:Comforting thoughts (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457848)

Nah, we've survived supervolcano eruptions before as a species, and that was when we were still living in caves and bashing women over the heads with sticks (not that Republicans have ever stopped).

Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455332)

I think if it will swallow Mars is still an open question. I think the current majority is rather that it will not swallow Mars, but only be so big that the sun will extend to the point where Mars is now. But Mars might no longer be there because Sun has lost too much mass till then.

Just a thought (1)

CxDoo (918501) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455452)

It has nothing to do with TFA but it just occured to me - do we know of any system where the central body is not a star (or a more massive object), for example let's imagine Jupiter in place of the Sun?
Would it be possible to detect this kind of system at all?

Re:Just a thought (1)

Jkasd (1663231) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455734)

In a binary star system, the center of mass could be relatively empty if the stars are close to the same mass. But since gravity is what keeps the whole system together, the most massive object will tend to be in the center. If you somehow switched the sun and Jupiter, the sun would become the new center again, while everything else would chaotically fall back into new orbits around it.

Re:Just a thought (1)

ubergeek09 (1412177) | more than 5 years ago | (#30455802)

i think what he is trying to say is "what if there was no star in the system?" as in the center of mass would be a large planet like jupiter or maybe a black hole. We would have no way of detecting these unless they some how blocked/warped the light of other known stars

Re:Just a thought (1)

CxDoo (918501) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456770)

Yep, that's what I wanted to say.

Swan Song (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455606)

Being that the star is Chi Cygni, I suppose this is its 'swan song'...

Electric Universe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455812)

In the Electric Universe model this is actually a young unstable star! The reason why it can expand and contract, in a way that seems completely at odds with the broken fusion model, is that it's reacting to the local(galactic) electrical conditions trying to maintain electrical stability by expanding and contracting the surface area of the anode (the photoshphere as we would know it). Our sun is mature and stable and reacts in a more modest way.
A lot of the editorial the goes with images like this mentions plasma, magnetic fields etc, all clues.
Supernovae are when it goes horribly wrong...
It's an interesting theory anyhow, makes our universe a lot less exotic and mysterious but it's still really beautiful!

Wow. Just wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30455986)

I've never seen so many who claim to be so intelligent display such a lack of knowledge as I have here. Stick to comic books and G4 guys.

Baited with title... And no pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30456230)

Articles like this piss me off. They bait you with a really juicy title like, "Close-Up Photos of Dying Star Show Our Sun's Fate"... And then not only don't have any of these close-up pictures for me to check out, but there's not even a link or sentence that tells me if there's a website I can go to look at them.

Of course, Science Daily is notorious for this.

I Didn't Know The Sun Blows (0, Troll)

ThePadrinoDotCom (1701618) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456284)

I Didn't Know The Sun Blows But today found out why the sun will blow up seems we need to start prepareing it's only 5 billion years from now. The Padrino Dot Com http://www.thepadrino.com/ [thepadrino.com]

Disfactual SD FUD (3, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456452)

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.

Re:Disfactual SD FUD (1)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457070)

Lol, you think we really are going to read everything carefully? We are busy people with real jobs; science, IT, etc. If you dont like it go somewhere else. And dont start about getting new editors..this job is a lot harder than one would think and we do a nearly excelelent job at what we do.

Re:Disfactual SD FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30457666)

Truly an "excelelent" rebuttal there.

From TFS (4, Funny)

electricbern (1222632) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456614)

beating like a giant heart with a period

What a bloody mess.

I panicked (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456724)

I panicked for a moment - I thought it said five million.

Re:I panicked (1)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457152)

I panicked for a moment - I thought it said five million.

The homo sapiens species has only been around roughly 500,000 years [wikipedia.org] . Human civilization, from its absolutely earliest form, has only been around for about 14,000 years. [wikipedia.org]

Even if it said five million, I dont think that would be reason to panic. That's a really, really long time. Although maybe that's the joke you were trying to make, and I'm too dense to get it.

Am I the only one (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#30456958)

I saw the "Dying Star" in the headline and thought this article was about Lindsay Lohan.

Not very long baseline interferometry (2, Informative)

ogre7299 (229737) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457076)

Just a minor correction. the scientists did use interferometry but it was not "very long baseline interferometry". The "very long" term applies to the telescopes being separated by extreme distances, say over the entire United States as is the case of the VLBA. Also, the VLBA can only function in radio wavelengths because the data can be taken at the individual telescopes an recombined later. With near-infrared interferometry, what the authors of this study were using, requires that the light from each telescope be sent down an optical tube with mirrors and recombined at a central location which constrains the IOTA telescopes to be close together.

IOTA was dismantled a few years ago, geiven that a new optical/near-infrared interferometry was coming online, CHARA http://www.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/ [gsu.edu]

Re:Not very long baseline interferometry (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457262)

Thanks for the info! The article was unclear on that, as on much else. I particularly liked that "stars are really far away" was given as the second reason for this kind of imaging being difficult, as if the extreme distances didn't make this sort of thing completely impossible until a decade or so ago.

The video is wonderful, and accounting for the persistent asymmetry in the early expansion phase will no doubt result in a more detailed understanding of the oscillation mechanism of these stars. First rate science, badly mangled as usual by /. and the tabloid science press.

"thin gas" by time sun xpands to earth orbit (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

No, that's Betelgeuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#30457450)

Isn't it? [washingtonpost.com]

Porn star? (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457540)

New close-up photos of the surface of this distant star show its throbbing motions in unprecedented detail.

Rule 34, baby!!

It's not "mimics" (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457726)

A presently dying star cannot mimic the death of our own star, since it has not happened yet. How about using "foreshadows" instead?

Lazy Artists? (1)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 5 years ago | (#30457820)

I thought that "Artists Conception" looked oddly familiar. Then I remembered this; http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/Discoveries/2009/0729/are-astronomers-watching-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-betelgeuse [csmonitor.com]

I seem to remember it was also in a Slashdot article [slashdot.org] that references this [astronomynow.com] .

Uhm... so which is it, people? Or is it just clip art?

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