Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Kepler spacecraft gives Iowa State's Kawaler, astronomers a look inside red giant stars

31.03.2011
NASA's Kepler Mission is giving astronomers such a clear view of changes in star brightness that they can now see clues about what's happening inside red giant stars.

"No one anticipated seeing this before the mission launched," said Steve Kawaler, an Iowa State University professor of physics and astronomy and a leader of the Kepler Asteroseismic Investigation. "That we could see so clearly down below a red giant star's surface was unexpected."

The astronomers' preliminary findings are published in two papers:

"Kepler Detected Gravity-Mode Period Spacings in a Red Giant Star," published online March 17 in the Brevia section of the journal Science. The paper's principal author is Paul Beck of Leuven University in Belgium.

"Gravity Modes as a way to Distinguish between Hydrogen- and Helium-burning Red Giant Stars," published in the Letters section of the March 31 edition of Nature. The paper's principal author is Timothy Bedding of the University of Sydney in Australia.

Both papers describe how Kepler tracks tiny, regular changes in star brightness. Their regularity resembles steady drumbeats at different, precise rhythms. Each rhythm can be thought of as an individual tooth of a comb. Astronomers have studied those oscillations from ground-based telescopes to determine star basics such as mass and radius. But they noticed departures from the steady patterns in the Kepler data – "dandruff on the comb," Kawaler said.

These other patterns are caused by gravity mode oscillations. And those waves are allowing researchers to probe a star's core. The result, according to the Science paper, is information about the density and chemistry deep inside a star.

And, according to the Nature paper, the data also shows researchers whether a red giant star burns hydrogen in a shell surrounding the star or whether it has evolved to an age that it burns helium in the core. That's something astronomers hadn't been able to determine before Kepler.

"The stars burning helium in the core survived a helium flash," Kawaler said. "That transformation from stars burning a hydrogen shell is mysterious. We think it happens quickly and perhaps explosively. Now we can tell which stars have done that and which stars will do that."

That information will help astronomers better understand the life cycle of red giant stars. Our sun will evolve into a red giant in about 5 billion years.

Kepler launched March 6, 2009, from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft is orbiting the sun carrying a photometer, or light meter, to measure changes in star brightness. The photometer includes a telescope 37 inches in diameter connected to a 95 megapixel CCD camera. That instrument is continually pointed at the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way galaxy. Its primary job is to use tiny variations in the brightness of the stars within its view to find earth-like planets that might be able to support life.

The Kepler Asteroseismic Investigation is also using data from that photometer to study stars. The investigation is led by a four-member steering committee: Kawaler, Chair Ron Gilliland of the Space Telescope Science Institute based in Baltimore, Jorgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Hans Kjeldsen, both of Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark.

Kepler, Kawaler said, is a revolutionary tool for the study and understanding of stars. It's like having an instrument that simultaneously studies waves for clues about the ocean's surface and listens beneath the surface for clues about the ocean depths.

"But you have to listen very carefully," Kawaler said. "And you have to have an instrument sensitive enough to see and hear both."

Steve Kawaler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions
28.06.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

nachricht New photoacoustic technique detects gases at parts-per-quadrillion level
28.06.2017 | Brown University

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>