“To be is to be the value of a variable.” –Willard Van Orman Quine
Those constant, fixed points of light in the night sky — the stars — turn out not to be so constant if you looked with great precision at them. A star like our Sun varies in brightness, periodically, by about 0.1% over the span of a few years, but many stars vary by 99% or more from brightest to dimmest.
For centuries, we knew of only a handful of these objects, yet now they’re known to be commonplace. What causes this spectacular behavior, how did we discover it and what’s the physical mechanism underlying it?
Come learn about the science of variable stars on this edition of Throwback Thursday!