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Blue straggler

Blue stragglers (BSS) are stars in open or globular clusters that are hotter and bluer than other cluster stars having the same luminosity. Thus, they are separate from other stars on the cluster's Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Blue straggler stars appear to violate standard theories of stellar evolution, in which all stars born at the same time should lie on a clearly defined curve in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, with their positions on that curve determined solely by their initial mass. Since blue stragglers often lie well off this curve, they may undergo abnormal stellar evolution.

The cause of this is not yet clearly known, but the leading hypothesis is that they are current or former binary stars that are in the process of merging or have already done so. The merger of two stars would create a single star with larger mass, making it hotter and more luminous than stars of a similar age. If this theory is correct, then blue stragglers would no longer cause a problem for stellar evolution theory; the resulting star would have more hydrogen in its core making it behave like a much younger star. There is evidence in favor of this view, notably that blue straggler stars appear to be much more common in dense regions of clusters, especially in the cores of globular clusters. Since there are more stars per unit volume, collisions and close-encounters are far more likely in clusters than among field stars.

One way to test this hypothesis is to study the pulsations of variable blue straggler stars. The asteroseismological properties of merged stars may be measurably different from those of normal pulsating variables of similar mass and luminosity. However, the measurement of pulsations is very difficult, given the scarcity of variable blue stragglers, the small photometric amplitudes of their pulsations, and the crowded fields these stars are often found in.

Blue stragglers rapidly rotate at a rate of 75 times that of the Sun's rotation. They appear to be two to three times the mass of the other cluster stars present. The most recent research reveals that nearby stars to blue stragglers have significantly less carbon and oxygen than their neighbors. This suggested that one star becomes hotter and bluer by pulling material from an orbiting star. The star that has had material stolen from it has deep regions exposed that show areas where the star’s original carbon had fused into heavier elements. It will later die.

Other types

"Yellow" or "red stragglers" are stars with colors between that of the turnoff and the red giant branch but brighter than the subgiant branch. Such stars have been identified in open and globular star clusters. These stars may be former blue straggler stars that are now evolving toward the giant branch.

  • Yellow straggler star (YSS)
  • Red straggler star (RSS)


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