Radio Stars

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Science  17 Sep 1971:
Vol. 173, Issue 4002, pp. 1087-1092
DOI: 10.1126/science.173.4002.1087


Up to the present time six classes of radio stars have been established. The signals are almost always very faint and drastically variable. Hence their discovery has owed as much to serendipity as to the highly sophisticated equipment and techniques that have been used. When the variations are regular, as with the pulsars, this characteristic can be exploited very successfully in the search for new objects as well as in the detailed study of those that are already known. The detection of the most erratically variable radio stars, the flare stars and the x-ray stars, is primarily a matter of luck and patience. In the case of the novas, one at least knows where and oughly when to look for radio emission.

A very sensitive interferometer is clearly the best instrument to use in the initial detection of a radio star. The fact that weak background sources are frequently present makes it essential to prove that the position of a radio source agrees with that of a star to within a few arc seconds. The potential of radio astronomy for the study of radio stars will not be realized until more powerful instruments than those that are available today can be utilized. So far, we have been able to see only the most luminous of the radio stars.