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Summer Science Exhibition 2010

Songs of the stars: the real music of the spheres









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Seeing with sound - image courtesy of Jack Harvey/NSO/AURA/NSF
Researchers from six UK Universities are using sound to see into the cores of stars and understand the workings of our Sun and the strangest stars in the sky.

Astronomers have been able to measure certain features of stars, such as their masses and chemical compositions, by observing their luminosities, spectra and motions through space. Previously, there was no way to actually test conditions within a star. Now researchers have developed asteroseismology to do this. Similar to echo-location by bats and dolphins to ‘see’ objects, scientists can now see stars in detail down to their cores, as well as detect planets orbiting the stars. Scientists can even see around the Sun to track solar storms on its far side, which is not visible from the Earth.

“Asteroseismology now lets us use sound to see right into the nuclear maelstroms of stars. The most inaccessible places in the universe are now visible to us,” says Professor Donald Kurtz from University of Central Lancashire.

Visitors to the exhibit will be able to hear the sounds of stars, and even hear musical compositions where every member of the orchestra is a real star. A demonstration with helium gas will show how asteroseismology works.

Exhibited by University of Central Lancashire; University of Birmingham; University of Sheffield; Queen Mary, University of London; University of Cambridge; Sheffield Hallam University.

See all exhibits from 2010
Songs of the stars: the real music of the spheres The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK