The Gaia Galactic Mapping mission has discovered thousands of stellar earthquakes that may provide new insights into the inner workings of stars.
The discovery is somewhat surprising because the spacecraft was not designed to do such work, astronomer Connie Aerts at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, said at a European Space Agency (ESA) press conference on Monday, June 13.
“These vibrations make the stellar gas move up and down,” Aerts said. “And it changes the brightness of the star as a function of time. So it makes the stars twinkle in the sky.”
Launched in 2013, Gaia measures exact locations in the sky, distances from a landThe speeds and trajectories of two billion stars in our galaxy Milky Way. The mission is famous for creating The most detailed map of our galaxy. However, the latest release of the data adds information about the brightness levels, masses and temperatures of half a billion stars and the detailed chemical compositions of several million of them. From this additional data astronomers can obtain an increasing color picture of galaxylife and behavior stars in it.
Related: 4 Big Mysteries of the Milky Way That Next Gaia Mission Data Dump May Solve
Stellar earthquakes were detected in a subset of observations focused on the distribution of changing stars In the Milky Way, that is, stars whose luminosity changes over time.
“Blinking stars provide astronomers with a very powerful tool for studying their internal physics and chemistry,” said Aerts. “It’s like earthquakes on Earth. Seismologists love earthquakes if they aren’t very violent, because they allow us to understand what’s going on inside our planet. And seismologists do the same thing, but for the stars.”
Gaia data release on June 13 also contains the largest dataset ever collected from Binary star systems In our galaxy, pairs of stars (or stars and black holes) orbit each other.
“This is something that is very interesting to the astronomical community because binary stars, for example, are the only way you can directly measure the mass of stars,” Anthony Brown, an astronomer at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and president of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC), which prepared The data is for public release, he told Space.com. “We can also discover some really interesting things like stars that have neutron stars or black holes as companions.”
This new data set contains 40 times more binary star systems than previously known and studied, Antonella Valinari, an astronomer at the Padova Observatory and vice president of DPAC, said at the press conference.
Brown described the new data release as a “supermarket of astronomical data” that astronomers will visit regularly over the coming years and decades. Another addition to the data supermarket range are measurements of so-called radial velocities, the speeds at which stars move away or toward Gaia, which is more than 30 million stars. Since the astral movements follow Physics rulesastronomers can model their trajectories in the past and future, Reconstructing the evolution of the Milky Way over eons And in three dimensions.
“We have absorbed 940 billion notes out of 2 billion [light] Sources to produce the data release, Brown said. “What we’re releasing today consists of 10 terabytes of compressed data, which is the richest set of astronomical data ever published.”
picture 1 From 4
But Gaia does not only see stars in the Milky Way. It also notices things in our area Solar System. So the new version will make a significant contribution to the search for asteroids Because it contains data on the chemical compositions of 60,000 space rocks of the solar system. Previously, only 4,500 asteroids were known for their chemical compositions, Jos de Bruyne, a scientist with the ESA Gaia project told Space.com.
“That’s a 13-fold increase,” De Bruyne said.
The dataset also contains accurate information about the orbits of these asteroids, allowing astronomers to detect potential dangers to Earth, but also to analyze families of asteroids based on their chemical compositions and trace their origins.
DPAC is already working hard on the next batch of Gaia data, which is expected to contain a huge catalog of recent discoveries. The outer planets. The mission will continue to survey the skies until 2025 when the fuel runs out.