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 The Exception and its Rules
25.07.2016 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht New record in materials research: 1 terapascals in a laboratory
22.07.2016 | Universität Bayreuth

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: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

Im Focus: A Peek into the “Birthing Room” of Ribosomes

Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis

A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...

Im Focus: New protocol enables analysis of metabolic products from fixed tissues

Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.

In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

Partner countries of FAIR accelerator meet in Darmstadt and approve developments

11.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

The Exception and its Rules

25.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Using Ultrashort Pulsed Laser Radiation to Process Fibre-Reinforced Components

25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

Added bacterial film makes new mortar resistant to water uptake

25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>