Beating hearts of young stars are exposed by Preston scientist

Who knew looking up at the night sky, the sound of silence could tell us so much.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 11:56 am
Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020, 11:58 am

Far from the peace and tranquillity seen from the Earth, noise created beyond the clouds has led astronomers to a startling new discovery.

By listening to the beating hearts of stars, international astronomers have identified a rhythm of life for a class of stellar objects that had scientists puzzled - until now.

Dr Daniel Holdsworth, from the University of Central Lancashire , is part of the global team whose new findings have just been published in the prestigious Nature journal.

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The delta Scuti pulsating star.

He is part of an Australian-led team which used data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space telescope mainly used to detect planets around some of the nearest stars to Earth.

This provided the team with brightness measurements of thousands of stars, allowing them to find 60 whose pulsations made sense.

Lead author Professor Tim Bedding, from the University of Sydney, said: "Previously we were finding too many jumbled up notes to understand these pulsating stars properly. It was a mess, like listening to a cat walking on a piano."

Dr Holdsworth, research associate in asteroseismology at UCLan in Preston, was one of four UK based academics involved in the research.

The delta Scuti pulsating star.

He said: "These findings have opened a new window on the analysis, and so understanding, of the delta Scuti stars.

Previously it has been hard to identify patterns in the pulsation modes in these stars, and it is the regular patters which hold the key to understanding the physics at play in the stellar interiors.

Although the 60 stars studied in the paper represent just a small fraction of the total delta Scuti population, these results will have implications for future studies."

The scientist added: “For example, we have shown that these stars are young, they are just starting the main part of their life, so we can use the information about regular spacings in other delta Scuti stars as an age diagnostic. The age of a star, or groups of stars, can be hard to determine with results differing by a factor of two.

Dr Daniel Holdsworth

However, asteroseismology has the power to provide very precise ages thus providing the opportunity to expand our understanding of the Galaxy around us."

His research was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).