Imaging the Surface of Altair

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Science  20 Jul 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5836, pp. 342-345
DOI: 10.1126/science.1143205

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Spatially resolving the surfaces of nearby stars promises to advance our knowledge of stellar physics. Using optical long-baseline interferometry, we constructed a near-infrared image of the rapidly rotating hot star Altair with a resolution of <1 milliarcsecond. The image clearly reveals the strong effect of gravity darkening on the highly distorted stellar photosphere. Standard models for a uniformly rotating star cannot explain our findings, which appear to result from differential rotation, alternative gravity-darkening laws, or both.

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