In the Stars, Astronomers Find Music

By measuring minute changes in light, researchers can 'hear' the stars
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2011 9:36 AM CST
In the Stars, Astronomers Find Music
The Kepler telescope was designed to find distant planets, but astronomers are using those measurements to listen to the "music" of the stars.   (AP Photo/NASA)

The ancients believed in the "music of the spheres"—that the planets and stars moved through the heavens in harmonic ratios. Today's astronomers are also "listening" to the stars, using the powerful Kepler telescope to measure their internal vibrations, a technique they call "astroseismology." So far, 500 stars have been mapped this way, with astronomers measuring tiny fluctuations in their light to listen to sound waves inside them, reports the BBC.

Kepler was actually designed to measure light fluctuations from distant stars in the search for other planets. But to do so, Kepler measures light levels so precisely it can also reveal soundwaves bouncing within those stars. "Using the resonances, we can literally build up a picture of what the inside of a star looks like—there's no other way of doing that," said one astronomer. "It's not easy to do, but we're now getting there, thanks to Kepler." (Read more astronomy stories.)

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