Sirius pp 123-140 | Cite as

A Matter of Degeneracy

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


Eddington summarized the dilemma concerning white dwarfs in one of a series of popular talks given during the summer of 1926 at King’s College, London. These talks were later included as part of his popular, widely read book Stars and Atoms. One chapter, cast in the form of a detective story, was entitled The Nonsensical Message, by which Eddington meant that the messages (observations) astronomers had received from Sirius B seemed to make no sense. He recounted the history of Sirius from prehistoric Egypt through Bessel, to the discovery of the faint companion during the American Civil War. Eddington then described how the observations of Walter Adams, first of the spectral type and the high temperature of Sirius B and then of its gravitational redshift (see Chapter 9), inescapably led to the conclusion that the star must be incredibly compact and dense; as he put it, made of a “material 2,000 times denser than platinum.” “It is scarcely possible to calculate what is the condition of the material in the Companion of Sirius, but I do not expect it to be a perfect gas,” he wrote. He concluded, “I have told the detective story so far as it has yet unrolled itself. I do not know whether we reached the last chapter.”


Black Hole Neutron Star White Dwarf Solar Mass Stellar Atmosphere 
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Chapter 8

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© Praxis Publishing Ltd, Chichester, UK 2007

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