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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Space Telescope Listens In on Stellar Symphony


The Kepler Space Telescope doesn’t just look for planets. By listening to subtle vibrations of the stars in its field of view, the telescope is recording a stellar symphony that gives an unprecedentedly accurate view of the inner lives of stars.

“We can say Kepler is listening to thousands of musicians in the sky,” said Daniel Huber, a graduate student at the University of Sydney.

Huber and members of an international consortium called the Kepler Astroseismic Science Consortium presented the new results in a teleconference Oct. 26. The Kepler chorus could help pin down the properties of planets, predict the future of our own sun and solve century-old stellar mysteries.

To search for planets, Kepler stares unblinkingly at a single patch of sky and waits for a star to slightly dim, a sign that a planet is crossing in front of the star. The telescope’s sharp eyes are sensitive enough to detect stars’ natural brightness variations, the result of vibrations inside the stars.

“Sound waves travel into the star and bring information up to the surface, which Kepler can see as a tiny flickering in brightness of the star,” said astronomer Travis Metcalfe of The National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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