Over the coming weeks an international team, led by Professor Ulrich Heber of the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany, will use over fifteen different telescopes around the world to make over one hundred nights of observations of just one star to learn about its internal structure.
The constellation of the "Serpent" contains a variable star, called V338 Ser, which vibrates with several periods of about ten minutes. It is a very old and nearly burnt out star which has lost most of its outer layers. Astronomers want to know just how old this star is and what happened to its outer layers.
This is difficult because it is normally impossible to see inside a star. Fortunately the surfaces of a few stars, including the Sun, vibrate upwards and downwards. These vibrations can be analyzed by borrowing techniques from seismology, which uses earthquakes or man-made explosions to send signals through the earth`s crust to measure its density. Astronomers can measure the density inside some stars by measuring the speed of naturally occurring vibrations. Each vibration probes a different layer of the star.
John McFarland | alphagalileo
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