13 Billion-Year-Old Star Can Still Make Music

Tuesday, 07 June 2016 - 11:28AM
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 - 11:28AM
"Just as archeologists can reveal the past by excavating the earth, so we can use sound inside the stars to perform Galactic archeology," explains Professor Bill Chaplin from the University of Birmingham's School of Physics and Astronomy. An intergalactic Indiana Jones--sounds crazy, right? 

Turns out, it's not so crazy after all. A team of scientists, lead by University of Birmingham's Andrea Miglio, studied the recent oscillations of starts using a technique called asteroseismology, or the study of the internal structure of pulsating stars through the interpretation of their pulsation frequencies. In order to create these soundscapes, they studied data from NASA's Kepler missions to measure the acoustic oscillations (sound waves) of distant stars. They measured the sound waves of some of the furthest known distant stars in the M4 star cluster, and then used that data to recreate the sounds. 

Aside from being really cool and satisfying to listen to as they ascend in pitch on the soundcloud, the audio clips also serve a greater scientific purpose. By measuring the tones from each star, the researchers derived a formula to help determine more precise measurements of star masses and ages. Since most stars are ancient--in some cases up to 13 billion years old--Miglio and her team hope to use the sounds to obtain even more information about the state of the universe back then.

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"We are thrilled to be able to listen to some of the stellar relics of the early universe," Miglio said in a statement. "The stars we have studied are really living fossils from the time of the formation of our galaxy, and we now hope to be able to unlock the secrets of how spiral galaxies, like our own, formed and evolved."
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But for now, we invite you to take an audial journey through the stars via soundcloud, or, for a more full experience, through this wonderful visualization that lets you play the individual sounds coming from each star.

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