Astronomers Discover Regular ‘Beating Hearts’ From Stars

Astronomers for the first time heard a possible “rhythm of life” from space. With the help of a NASA space telescope, the team was able to analyze noise from outside the solar system and to find what could be the beating hearts of stars.

The new study, published in the journal Nature, used data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The telescope has been helping NASA and its partners to study stars and the planets around them. 

For the latest analysis, astronomers looked into brightness measurements of the delta Scuti stars, about 1.5 to 2.5 times the mass of the Sun. At least 60 of the stars, located 60 to 1,400 light-years from Earth, produced regular high-frequency pulsation modes. 

“The incredibly precise data from NASA's TESS mission have allowed us to cut through the noise,” Tim Bedding, lead study author and a professor at the University of Sydney, said in a statement. “Now we can detect structure, more like listening to nice chords being played on the piano.”

Getting clear patterns of pulsations could help determine the masses, ages and internal structures of the stars. Bedding said researchers previously struggled to analyze noise from stars since they sounded like “jumbled up notes” or “like listening to a cat walking on a piano.”

The latest study aims to guide future efforts to understand the life and activities of stars across the universe. 

Listening To Stars’ Heartbeat 

Astronomers have been studying stellar pulsations over the past decades to understand the insides of stars. Looking into changes in their light output or patterns of brightness help experts “stare into the very heart” of the stellar objects. 

“I think it's incredible that we can use techniques like this to look at the insides of stars,” Isabel Colman, study co-author and PhD student at the University of Sydney, said. “The more we know about stars, the more we learn about their potential effects on their planets.”

The same method has been used to study the Sun. By observing its pulsations, astronomers were able to understand its temperature and chemical makeup. 

Bedding said their study that identified regular patterns in other intermediate-mass stars may also guide future efforts to determine the age of young clusters in the universe.

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