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Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944)
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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 stellar seismology.

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.

Last modified December 22, 2004 by Travis Metcalfe.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA