Saturday, December 24, 2005

Music of the Spheres: Sounds from Alpha Centauri B

The New Scientist reports that researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have managed to reconstruct the sounds inside of the star Alpha Centauri B and compare them to Sol, our sun. You may wonder how stars can have sounds when, as everyone knows, 'in space no one can hear you scream.'

The reason is that the sounds never make it from inside a star out into the vacuum of space itself. The gasses churning around inside a star cause low-frequency vibrations (sounds) which travel through the star and bounce off its outer surface. The bouncing causes a star to pulse slightly. These light pulses can be measured by astronomers here on Earth using telescopes and then used to reconstruct the sounds that caused them. Besides being interesting audio recordings, the sounds can also be analyzed to reveal details about the internal structure of the star.

You can listen to some music of the spheres yourself by downloading the researchers' WAV files from Sol (our star, the Sun) and Alpha Centauri B (one of our nearest neighbors). The research was originally published in Astrophysical Journal (vol 635, p 1281).

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