Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I work as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney in Australia. I work closely with scientist around the world but am particularly closely affiliated with the Stellar Astrophysics Centre at Aarhus University in Denmark, from where I graduated. My research is mainly focused on the analysis and interpretation of data from space projects, such as NASA’s Kepler mission. My aim is to use time resolved brightness measurements of stars to reveal in print of standing sound waves oscillating inside the stars, from which we can deduce their interior structure. This field of research is what we call asteroseismology.
What are the most important recent developments in the field of research discussed in your chapter?
The beginning of the ‘space age’ of asteroseismology is undoubtedly the most important development, which has led to revolution of my field. A decade ago we only had about a dozen of stars with detections of oscillations, each taking years in preparation to obtain the data. With the launch of the French-led CoRoT mission, we suddenly had over thousand stars almost overnight. These were mostly red giants, or old Suns, which are the type of stars I am particularly interested in. This boost in data was amplified by Kepler, which during its four-year provided data of more than 15,000 oscillating red giants making nearly impossible to keep up with our analysis.
How can other seismologists, planetary scientists and astrophysicists learn from this area of research?
The knowledge we gain from asteroseismology has great impact on our understanding on the fundamental physics that governs stellar evolution. We kind of use the stars as advantage laboratories to study physical process at extreme conditions that we cannot reproduce in the lab here on Earth.
Stars are the visual building blocks of galaxies and are therefore crucial to understand to form a complete picture of how the universe works. With asteroseismology, we can determine fundamental properties of stars, such as their size, mass, and age. Knowing the ages of stars is central to much of astrophysics, but determining it is actually pretty hard if not outright impossible for most stars. Asteroseismology is currently the most powerful way we can measure ages for large samples of stars. Our research is therefore going to have significant impact on other areas of astrophysics, including studies of the structure and evolution of our Milky Way galaxy, known as Galactic Archaeology.
Could you recommend some key research papers related to your book chapter? Could you tell us a bit more about the research?
Chaplin & Miglio 2013 [2013ARA&A..51..353C]
Despite the fast developments in asteroseismology, this general review of the field is still reasonably up to date.
Bedding 2014 [2014aste.book...60B]
This is a general review of the field with focus on the observational aspects.
Stello 2012 [2012ASPC..462..200S]
This is a review of how the non-radial modes evolve from the sun-like phase to the red giant phase, with emphasis on the recent discovery of mixed modes in red giants.
A well written non-review paper for a general audience:
Bedding et al. 2011 [2011Natur.471..608B]
This paper explains one of the breakthroughs in recent years, demonstrating how mixed modes can be used to distinguish red giants that look the same on the surface but are at very different evolutionary stages, as revealed by differences in their cores.
How important is it for you to be involved in international, collaborative, interdisciplinary research linked to seismology?
With hundreds of scientists working in my field of asteroseismology globally, collaboration across countries even continents is central to a successful career. Fortunately, communication technologies have made this much easier than in the past. With the large increase in data we obtain from space mission, increased global coordination and collaboration has been extremely beneficial for the field.
Do you have any other messages to our readers?
The success of the CoRoT and Kepler missions has led NASA and ESA to select the follow-up missions for the future. The continued use of the Kepler telescope in its new mission, called K2, will provide data of order 50,000 oscillating red giants throughout the Galaxy. The fire hose of data will further increase when NASA’s TESS mission is launched in 2017, and in the more distant future ESA’s PLATO will provide data for the next generation of asteroseismologist. This all points to some very exciting times full of new discoveries in extraterrestrial seismology!