Asteroseismology: probing inside stars using stellar oscillations

Summary

Measuring oscillations in stars like the Sun using asteroseismology is a powerful new method for exploring their internal structures and testing physical theories.

Supervisor(s)

Professor Tim Bedding

Research Location

School of Physics

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

Asteroseismology involves using the oscillation frequencies of a star to measure its internal properties.  Measuring stellar oscillations is a beautiful physics experiment: a star is a gaseous sphere and will oscillate in many different modes when suitably excited.  The frequencies of these oscillations depend on the sound speed inside the star, which in turn depends on density, temperature, gas motion and other properties of the stellar interior.  This analysis, called asteroseismology, yields information such as composition, age, mixing and internal rotation that cannot be obtained in any other way and is completely analogous to the seismological study of the interior of the Earth.

Many stars, including the Sun, are observed to oscillate.  Asteroseismology is a new and rapidly developing field and there are several possible PhD projects, depending on the preference of the student.  These range from obtaining high-precision Doppler measurements of sun-like stars with large telescopes such as the AAT and the VLT to exploiting observations by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

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Keywords

physics, astronomy, astrophysics, asteroseismology, stellar oscillations, stellar evolution

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 715