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A Catalog of Celestial Exotica

24 Jun 2020, 12:20 UTC
A Catalog of Celestial Exotica
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Harmonizing with yesterday’s post about a NASA grant to study technosignatures is word from Breakthrough Listen, which has released a catalog of what it calls ‘exotica’ or, to cite the accompanying paper: “an 865 entry collection of 737 distinct targets intended to include “one of everything” in astronomy.” The idea is to produce a general reference work that can guide astronomical surveys and, in the case of Breakthrough, widen the search for technosignatures.
Brian Lacki (UC-Berkeley), who is lead author of the new catalog, notes that it’s not meant to be restricted to SETI, though its uses there may prove interesting. Here are the four categories of exotica the catalog defines:

‘Prototypes.’ Here the intent is to list one example, perhaps more, an archetype of every known type of non-transient object in the sky. According to the paper, “We emphasize the inclusion of many types of energetic and extreme objects like neutron stars…, but many quiescent examples are included too.”
‘Superlatives.’ These are objects with the most extreme properties (“among the most extreme in at least one major physical property, the record-breakers“), including unusually metallic stars, or the fastest known pulsar, the stars with the highest metal content and those ...

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