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The M 80 Blue Stragglers

Francesco R. Ferraro was first intrigued by Astronomy as a child. He was born in a town on the beautiful sea of Puglia but he mostly grew up in Matera, a small city in south of Italy, in the so-called ``Magna Grecia'' area, a region full of ancient history of the Greek colonization. Naturally his initial main interest was Archeology. While he was collaborating with an amateur Archeologist group, there was an amateur astronomy group working next door to the Archeologists. The curiosity which led him to look in at next door's meetings was fatal: after many years of freezing nights spent following luminosity variability of nearby variable stars, he started to study Astronomy at the Bologna University where he earned a PhD degree in Astronomy.

Ferraro's principal field of investigation is the study of stellar evolution and stellar population in old stellar systems. His astronomical work is based on observations made with telescope on the Earth (mainly European Telescopes in Chile) and in space (Hubble Space Telescope). Thus at the end he has finally succeeded in reconciling both his passions indulging in an Astro-Archeology approach to the problem of the formation and the evolution of our Galaxy, via the systematic study of the oldest known fossils of that remote epoch: the Galactic Globular Clusters. Since his initial hobby became his vocation, he has turned his interest toward figurative art and currently enjoys painting.

Barbara Paltrinieri was born and raised in Sassuolo, a small town near Modena, in the North of Italy. Her first experience with astronomy was when she was a small child---in September she always was in the country and her grandmother, during the grape harvest, told her the mythological Greek history about stars. The story of Andromeda and Perseus was her favorite. It was inevitable that she study astronomy at Bologna University, but her passion for the Earth was always high and led her to other subjects as well. In 1996, following the love for grapes that her grandmother pass to her, she became a sommelier, an expert on Italian wines. Between Earth and sky the distance is not to great, and in the same year, she obtain her Laurea degree in astronomy, defending a thesis titled ``HST Observations of the Core of the Globular Cluster M3.''

She is a PhD student in Rome University where she mainly works on stellar evolution. In particular she is investigating the origin and nature of UV bright stars, including Blue Stragglers Star and Horizontal Branch stars, in Globular Clusters from HST-WFPC2 data.

Robert T. Rood grew up in Cary, NC. Sputnik was launched his second year of high school setting an atmosphere where an interest in space was almost automatic. He, however, did not contemplate astronomy as a career until the 2nd year of graduate school. While pursuing ``Particle Theory'' he had signed up for a course called the Physics of Stellar Interiors partly because it sounded interesting, but more importantly because it was taught in the afternoon and he would not have to get up before lunch. Later that semester he realized that his particle physics classes seemed pointless (this being the period of Regge Poles) and bailed out. He thus he made the lucky blunder into astrophysics.

Although he started out as a theorist, in the late 1970's he became convinced that progress in understanding the late stages of stellar evolution in globular star clusters was not likely to be made by a purely theoretical frontal assault. The coming of the internet in the late 1980's made it possible for him to be an active collaborator with stellar observers both space and ground based. He also does observational radio astronomy and, as this is being written, he is sitting at the observers computer in the control room of the Green Bank 140 foot radio telescope. His only surviving `hobby' is cooking (and eating with the appropriate wines) and the required associated gardening---where else are you going to get good tomatoes and okra.

Ben Dorman was born and raised in London. He can first remember looking at stars on a trip to Israel when he was 3 (possibly the first time he had the opportunity considering the climate in Southern England) and his cousin Michal, who told him to ``look up.'' Eventually, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge to take four years of the Mathematical Tripos, which he took (unofficially) part time between running the Cambridge Charities Appeal, much to the consternation of his Director of Studies. Then, deciding that any more time in Cambridge would drive anyone crazy, he decided to look toward North America for Graduate School. He landed first at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada (M.Sc. on low mass stars and brown dwarfs) and then moved to Victoria, British Columbia (which Rudyard Kipling described as Brighton in the Himalayas) to work with Don VandenBerg on advanced stages of stellar evolution and globular clusters. After his Ph.D. he has held positions at the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, and the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Early in 1995 his son Asher was diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder that is marked by severe problems of communication and social interaction. Since 1996 he has volunteered as the Webmaster for the Autism Society of America.

In recent years Ben has been an active collaborator with a number of teams who have studied globular clusters with HST. He has also worked on calibration issues for HST photometry in the ultraviolet, and in the theoretical determination of ultraviolet spectra of single stars and integrated stellar populations. He now works for Raytheon Information Technology and Space Sciences at the X-Ray data analysis.

Learn more on the web:

University of Virginia Astronomy

For details about research on M 80:

search the NASA Astrophysics Data System for publications. For example, look for Ferraro, F. R., Paltrinieri, B., Fusi Pecci, F., Rood, R. T., Dorman, B., 1998, ``Multimodal Distributions along the Horizontal Branch,'' ApJ, 500, 311--319

Ferraro, F. R., Paltrinieri, B., Rood, R. T., Dorman, B. 1999, Blue Straggler Stars: The Spectacular Population in M80, ApJ, 522, 1 September, in press is a paper that will be published shortly.
Click to view a figure showing a 255 nm image with bright hot horizontal branch stars (larger open circles).