first_imgStay on target Hubble Captures Gorgeous Star’s Final Stages of LifeAstronomers Discover Planet With Strange, Egg-Shaped Orbit Cosmic acoustics aren’t ideal: Sound doesn’t travel through the vacuum of space.But that’s never stopped stars from playing a symphony of subsonic notes, powered by internal pulses.And while we may not be able to hear the concert (you’d have to speed up stellar vibrations a million times to bring them into the range of human perception), telescopes can pick up reverberations—identified as fluctuations in brightness or temperature on the surface of the fireball.“A cello sounds like a cello because of its size and shape,” Jacqueline Goldstein, a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomy department, explained. “The vibrations of stars also depend on their size and structure.”Understand these so-called “starquakes,” named after their seismic cousins on Earth, and we better understand the inner structure of astronomical objects otherwise hidden from view.That’s exactly what Goldstein is doing.As stars fuse hydrogen into heavier elements in their core, hot plasma gas vibrates and causes the stars to flicker. Using software she developed to simulate diverse stars and their frequencies, Goldstein can essentially eavesdrop on our cosmic neighbors.In partnership with astronomy professors Rich Townsend and Ellen Zweibel, Goldstein developed the GYRE program, which plugs into star-simulating software MESA to analyze how closely a replica matches reality.“Since I made my stars, I know what I put inside them,” Goldstein said. “So when I compare my predicted vibration patterns against observed vibration patterns, if they’re the same, then great, the inside of my stars are like the insides of those real stars.“If they’re different, which is usually the case, that gives us information that we need to improve our simulations and test again,” she added.GYRE and MESA are open source and free for scientists to access and modify. The team has already benefited from users suggesting changes to and fixing errors in the software.They also got a boost from planet hunters, searching the skies for transit—a phenomenon that occurs when a planet passes in front of its star, causing a dip in the star’s brightness.As the hunt for exoplanets ramps us, Goldstein & Co. have gained access to a trove of new data on stellar fluctuations thanks to NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).“We’re going to be able to say for all the stars we can see in our neighborhood whether or not they’re pulsating,” Goldstein said. “If they are, we’ll be able to study their pulsations to learn about what’s happening beneath the surface.”Moving forward, the astrophysicist is developing a new version of GYRE to take advantage of the TESS data. With it, she’ll start to simulate this stellar orchestra, hundreds of thousands strong.More on Images Help Uncover Galaxy’s Oldest Star ClusterAstronomers Catch Young Star in Rare Growth SpurtWe Now Know How Bright the Universe Islast_img