Scientists have captured the sounds of some of the oldest stars in the Milky Way that will help to determine their the mass and age and may unveil the very early history of our galaxy.
The researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK reported the detection of resonant acoustic oscillations of stars in ‘M4’, one of the oldest known clusters of stars in the galaxy, some 13 billion years old.
Using data from the NASA Kepler mission, the team has studied the resonant oscillations of stars using a technique called asteroseismology.
These oscillations lead to miniscule changes or pulses in brightness, and are caused by sound trapped inside the stars. By measuring the tones in this ‘stellar music’, it is possible to determine the mass and age of individual stars.
The discovery opens the door to using asteroseismology to study the very early history of our galaxy.
“We were thrilled to be able to listen to some of the stellar relics of the early universe,” said Andrea Miglio, from the University of Birmingham, who led the study.
“The stars we have studied really are living fossils from the time of the formation of our galaxy, and we now hope be able to unlock the secrets of how spiral galaxies, like our own, formed and evolved,” said Miglio.
“The age scale of stars has so far been restricted to relatively young stars, limiting our ability to probe the early history of our galaxy,” said Guy Davies, from the University of Birmingham.
“In this research we have been able to prove that asteroseismology can give precise and accurate ages for the oldest stars in the galaxy,” Davies said.
“Just as archaeologists can reveal the past by excavating the Earth, so we can use sound inside the stars to perform galactic archaeology,” said Bill Chaplin, professor at the University of Birmingham.
The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.