Six years after his death, an astronomer solve a Top mystery of star evolution

A newly published paper reveal that scientists had in fact figured out how stars evolve into red giants way back in 1935 – 2 decades before the hypothesis was formally published by prominent astronomer Allan Sandage.

What’s so interesting about this latest study is the fact that it was led by Sandage himself, who approved away in 2010, but who loyal the last years of his life to proving that one of his main discoveries had in fact been scooped. And if that’s not commitment to reality and accuracy in science, then I don’t know what is.

Let’s step back here a next though, because you’re probably wonder who Sandage is, and what this big breakthrough in star development is all about.

Here’s what happened – since the early on 1900s, scientists had been enthralled with trying to categorise the stars in the night sky, base on their brightness and colour, and trying to figure out what those characteristics exposed about them.

They’d done a high-quality job of that, and had figure out that stars could be categorised along the branch of ‘main-sequence stars’ – the much brighter red huge stars,

“Despite his moribund health, we worked incredibly hard in the months previous [Sandage]’s death – exchanging letters and in receipt of handwritten comments from him on the manuscript,” said Beaton.

When Sandage passed gone in 2010, Beaton and Majewski continued their work and now have lastly, finally published the results in the journal publication of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

The outcome? They establish that Gamow and Adams’ 1935 catalogue was in fact incredibly accurate, and it predated Sandage’s detection of the subgiant phase of evolution by additional than 20 years.

“If this very real detection of subgiants had been recognized at the time, we could have greater than before the pace at which stellar evolutionary theory was urbanized,” said Beaton.

Despite the fact that Beaton and Majewski worked on the project additional than five years without Sandage, they left him as the primary author on the paper, a decision they give details in the afterword:

“[Sandage] is fairly maintained as the primary author in that he was the inventor and true leader of the project, but most particularly to recognise his enthusiasm to rectify the past judgment of the [1935] work and to uphold the standing of the Mount Wilson spectroscopists.”

While this latest research doesn’t change what we already knew about stellar development, it does set the proof straight on when the detection was made.

And the fact that Sandage spent the previous years of his life annoying to disprove some of his life’s greatest work make him an absolute hero of science. His legacy should live on still brighter as a result.