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Decoding the stars

Modern astronomy is providing us with unprecedented opportunities to deepen our knowledge of the cosmos. An EU-backed project analysed the data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Kepler mission to study Earth-like stars and larger planets.
Decoding the stars
Named after the German Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, the NASA Kepler mission was launched in 2009. The spacecraft uses a photometer that continually monitors the brightness of over 145 000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view. These vast amounts of data must be sifted through and analysed.

To that end, the EU-funded ASK (Sounding stars with Kepler) project set up a network of 13 institutions, 7 from the EU and 6 from other countries. Together, the partners examined and interpreted the data, and integrated it with data from other sources. ASK complemented the unprecedented quality of the observations captured by Kepler, with ground-based follow-up spectroscopic, photometric and interferometric observations.

The work has shed light on fundamental stellar parameters like metallicity, rotation and compositional gradients, as well as providing high-precision seismic descriptions of the interiors of individual stars. These goals were reached by reducing the uncertainties of asteroseismic models related to interior physics, by including processes such as turbulence, differential rotation, and other 3-D effects, and by eliminating shortcomings of current non-linear pulsation theory in descriptions of mode coupling, excitation and damping.

ASK consortium members carried out survey studies of Kepler asteroseismic targets as well as several case studies focusing on individual stars. The studies ranged from asteroseismic modelling to ground-based spectroscopic, photometric and interferometric observations. Reducing the data required sophisticated tools, including dedicated computational pipelines that could automatically calibrate, reduce and analyse the data. ASK has formulated asteroseismic models of a wide spectrum of stars at various stages of their evolution.

The project ran to the end of April 2015 and resulted in over 100 scientific publications. In addition, the network has established a nucleus for future international collaboration. Two videos are available: Skies over the Apache Point Observatory (New Mexico, United States) and Ensemble Asteroseismology of Solar-Type Stars with the NASA Kepler Mission.

Related information

Keywords

Stars, Kepler mission, planets, stellar, asteroseismic
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