Twinkling stars sound like a “warped ray gun,” according to new research.
State-of-the-art technology has allowed scientists to listen to – as well as see – distant celestial bodies for the first time.
They described their findings, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, as “eerily fascinating.”
It has been previously shown that stars appear to twinkle because our atmosphere bends starlight as it travels to Earth.
But a new study shows that stars also have an innate “twinkle” – caused by rippling waves of gas on their surfaces – that is imperceptible to current Earth-bound telescopes.
He explained that all stars have a convection zone, a wild and disorderly place where gases churn to push heat outward.
For massive stars – ones at least about 1.2 times the mass of our sun – the convection zone resides at their cores.
He explained that It also makes waves — small rivulets that cause starlight to dim and brighten, producing a subtle twinkle.
Because the cores of massive stars are shrouded from view, Dr. Anders and his team sought to model their hidden convection.
To isolate the waves that launch to the surface and create twinkling, the researchers built a filter that describes how waves bounce around inside of the simulations.
He said musicians then apply filters and engineer the recordings to produce the song how they want.
Dr. Anders and his team applied their filter to the pure waves they measured coming out of the convective core.
They then followed waves bouncing around in a model star, ultimately finding that their filter accurately described how the star changed the waves coming from the core.
The team then developed a different filter for how waves should bounce around inside of a real star.
With the filter applied, the resulting simulation shows how astronomers expect waves to appear if viewed through a powerful telescope.
Taking the recording studio analogy a step further, Dr. Anders and his team used their simulations to generate sound.
Because the waves are outside the range of human hearing, the researchers uniformly increased the frequencies of the waves to make them audible.
Depending on how large or bright a massive star is, Dr. Anders says the convection produces waves corresponding to different sounds.
The team passed songs through different stars to listen to how the stars change the songs.
They passed a short audio clip from “Jupiter” – a movement from “The Planets” orchestral suite by classical composer Gustav Holst – and from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” through three sizes of massive stars.
Dr. Anders said that when propagated through stars, all songs sound distant and haunting – like something from “Alice in Wonderland.”
“The stars change the music and, correspondingly, change how the waves would look if we saw them as twinkling on the star’s surface.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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