Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A young star's age can be gleamed from nothing but sound waves

04.07.2014

Ultrasounds for astronomers?

Determining the age of stars has long been a challenge for astronomers. In experiments published in the journal Science, researchers at KU Leuven's Institute for Astronomy show that 'infant' stars can be distinguished from 'adolescent' stars by measuring the acoustic waves they emit.


In a young region like the so-called Christmas Tree Cluster, stars are still in the process of forming. A star is 'born' once it becomes optically visible (bottom right). During its further evolution, the star contracts and gets smaller in size and hotter until the core temperature is sufficient to start nuclear burning of hydrogen. This marks the end of the stellar childhood phase (bottom left). While the young star evolves from its birth to the beginning of hydrogen burning, its pulsation properties change: the least evolved, i.e., youngest, stars pulsate slower and the most evolved while the oldest stars pulsate faster.

Credit: ESO

Stars are often born in clusters, the result of contracting molecular clouds of gas and dust particles. As a star evolves from infant to adolescent, gravitational pull causes it to contract. It gets smaller in size and hotter until the core temperature is sufficient to start nuclear burning of hydrogen. At this point, the star stabilizes and becomes an 'adult'. It stays this way for vast tracts of time.

Determining the age of a young star is far from simple, and knowing which molecular cloud a star comes from gives only a vague idea of its age. But researchers have come up with a way to determine the age of stars by measuring their acoustic vibrations using ultrasound technology similar to that used in the field of medicine.

Acoustic vibrations – sound waves – are produced by radiation pressure inside stars. First author Konstanze Zwintz, a postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven's Institute for Astronomy, and her colleagues studied the vibrations of 34 stars aged under 10 million years and sized between one and four times the mass of our sun.

"Our data shows that the youngest stars vibrate slower while the stars nearer to adulthood vibrate faster. A star's mass has a major impact on its development: stars with a smaller mass evolve slower. Heavy stars grow faster and age more quickly," says Dr. Zwintz.

While theoretical physicists have posited before that young stars vibrate differently than older stars, Zwintz' study is the first to confirm these predications using concrete data from outer space.

"We now have a model that more precisely measures the age of young stars," says Zwintz. "And we are now also able to subdivide young stars according to their various life phases."

The researchers studied the nebula known commonly as the Christmas Tree Cluster. Their data was obtained from the Canadian MOST satellite and the European CoRoT satellite as well as from ground-based facilities such as the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile.

Dr. Konstanze Zwintz | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation
12.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

nachricht Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy
12.12.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>