eso0125 — Organisation Release
Sounds of a Star
28 June 2001: Sound waves running through a star can help astronomers reveal its inner properties. This particular branch of modern astrophysics is known as "asteroseismology". In the case of our Sun, the brightest star in the sky, such waves have been observed since some time, and have greatly improved our knowledge about what is going on inside. However, because they are much fainter, it has turned out to be very difficult to detect similar waves in other stars. Nevertheless, tiny oscillations in a solar-twin star have now been unambiguously detected by Swiss astronomers François Bouchy and Fabien Carrier from the Geneva Observatory, using the CORALIE spectrometer on the Swiss 1.2-metre Leonard Euler telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory. This telescope is mostly used for discovering exoplanets. The star Alpha Centauri A is the nearest star visible to the naked eye, at a distance of a little more than 4 light-years. The new measurements show that it pulsates with a 7-minute cycle, very similar to what is observed in the Sun.