Kepler Detected Gravity-Mode Period Spacings in a Red Giant Star

Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 205
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201939

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Asteroseismology Delivers

Using asteroseismology—the study of stellar oscillations, it is possible to probe the interior of stars and to derive stellar parameters, such as mass and radius (see the Perspective by Montgomery). Based on asteroseismic data from the NASA Kepler mission, Chaplin et al. (p. 213) detected solarlike oscillations in 500 solartype stars in our Galaxy. The distribution of the radii of these stars matches that expected from stellar evolution theory, but the distribution in mass does not, which challenges our knowledge of star formation rates, the mass of forming stars, and the models of the stars themselves. Derekas et al. (p. 216) report the detection of a triple-star system comprising a red giant star and two red dwarfs. The red giant star, instead of the expected solarlike oscillations, shows evidence for tidally induced oscillations driven by the orbital motion of the red dwarf pair. Finally, Beck et al. (p. 205) describe unusual oscillations from a red giant star that may elucidate characteristics of its core.


Stellar interiors are inaccessible through direct observations. For this reason, helioseismologists made use of the Sun’s acoustic oscillation modes to tune models of its structure. The quest to detect modes that probe the solar core has been ongoing for decades. We report the detection of mixed modes penetrating all the way to the core of an evolved star from 320 days of observations with the Kepler satellite. The period spacings of these mixed modes are directly dependent on the density gradient between the core region and the convective envelope.

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