Stellar Mergers and Interactions: Yes, Virginia, Stars Do Collide

ASX will be holding the first Star Talk of 2014-2015 on September 18 at 8pm. The speaker is Doctor Alison Sills, a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University. The talk will be given in McLennan Physical Labs (60 St George Street). The room is number 102 on the first floor. This is a FREE event and open for all ages.

Dr Alison Sills studies weird stars in unusual places. The stars that interest her have had something happen to them during their life, such as a collision with another star or an interaction with their binary companion. These events happen more often in dense stellar clusters. Dr Sills uses a variety of computational tools to model the formation and evolution of these clusters and their stellar populations. Dr Sills grew up in Toronto and attended the University of Western Ontario for her BSc before studying at Yale University for her PhD. After postdoctoral positions at the Ohio State University and the University of Leicester in the UK, she returned to Ontario to take up a faculty position at McMaster University in 2001. She currently lives in Hamilton with her husband and two daughters.

Alison Sills writes, “I will discuss strong interactions between stars in a variety of environments. Despite the vast (average) interstellar distances, stars are social creatures and tend to live in pairs, multiples, or groups. Under these circumstances, stars can, and do, modify each other’s mass, radius, composition, and overall evolution through gravitational encounters ranging from wind mass transfer in a binary system to complete stellar collisions and mergers. I will show how such events can change our understanding of particular stellar systems, how they can explain the properties of many unusual objects, and how interactions¬†could change the environment these stars live in. The emphasis for this talk will be on the modelling of these interactions, and I will demonstrate how a combination of stellar evolution, stellar dynamics, and hydrodynamics can bring some understanding to these complicated systems.”

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