Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944)
This image is in the public domain.
Sounds of the Stars
Sir Arthur Eddington was an English physicist, and author of a 1926 book called The Internal Constitution of the Stars
. He wrote: "At first sight it would seem that the deep interior of the sun and stars is less accessible to scientific investigation than any other region of the universe. Our telescopes may probe farther and farther into the depths of space; but how can we ever obtain certain knowledge of that which is hidden behind substantial barriers? What appliance can pierce through the outer layers of a star and test the conditions within?"
The answer to his question is now known. The sounds of the stars, also called
Just as geologists can use earthquakes to understand the interior of the earth, astronomers can learn about the insides of some stars because they pulsate. These pulsations are like very low sound waves traveling through the star. If we could make the waves move a million times faster, we could hear the sounds of the stars!
Different types of stars would have different sounds. Making sounds similar to our own Sun is the nearby star alpha Centauri (click to listen). A giant star like xi Hydrae has a deeper tone. A tiny white
dwarf star like GD 358 plays the higher notes. One astronomer has even worked with a composer to create a unique kind of music from these sounds.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Fall 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist
, which includes articles on student research into building design for earthquakes and a classroom lab on the composition of the Earth’s ancient atmosphere, is available in our online store
You might also be interested in:
Remember me? Last month I was observing targets of the Kepler space mission at Teide Observatory on Tenerife. Now I am in Chile to observe targets of the CoRoT space mission. CoRoT is a satellite devoted...more
In recent years astronomers have become able to detect "starspots" on distant stars! Like the sunspots that frequently dot the "surface" of the nearest star, our Sun, starspots are relatively cool, dark...more
Astronomers use the term "magnitude" to describe the brightness of an object. The magnitude scale for stars was invented by the ancient Greeks, possibly by Hipparchus around 150 B.C. The Greeks grouped...more
Because of the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun, we divide the stars and constellations into two groups. Some stars and constellations never rise nor set, and they are called circumpolar....more
In the 1960's, the United States launched a series of satellites to look for very high energy photons, called Gamma Rays, that are produced whenever a nuclear bomb explodes. These satellites soon detected...more
The introduction of telescopes to the study of astronomy opened up the universe, but it took some time for astronomers to realize how vast the universe could be. Telescopes revealed that our night sky...more
Neutron Stars are the end point of a massive star's life. When a really massive star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core the core begins to collapse under gravity. When the core collapses the entire star...more