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July 8, 1996 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1996-26

Hubble Telescope Measures Diameters of Pulsating Stars

July 8, 1996: The Hubble telescope has been used successfully to measure the diameters of a special class of pulsating star called a Mira variable, which rhythmically change size. The results suggest these gigantic, old stars aren't round but egg-shaped.

Knowing more about these enigmatic stars is crucial to understanding how stars evolve, and may preview the fate of our Sun, five billion years from now. Due to their distance, the stars are too small for their disks to be resolved in conventional visible-light pictures, so astronomers used Hubble's Fine Guidance Sensors to measure the widths of two Mira variables, R Leonis and W. Hydrae.

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Credit: M. Lattanzi (Turin Observatory), U. Munari (Podova Observatory), P. Whitelock (South African Astronomical Observatory) and NASA