Kepler logs violent starquakes

A powerful NASA space telescope has recorded massive “earthquakes” on thousands of distant stars. The starquakes, reported by the space agency this week, are allowing astronomers to learn about the stars’ age, size and how they evolved.

Cutaway diagram shows rippling starquake (CNES)

They were observed by NASA’s £400 million Kepler probe which was launched in 2009 to seek out new worlds.

Kepler is keeping constant watch on more than 100,000 stars in one small region of the Milky Way. Its main mission is to find signs of small rocky planets like Earth. But it is measuring powerful quakes rippling through the faraway stars. First results by an international team of scientists were revealed at a conference in Denmark.

Mission scientist Douglas Hudgins, at NASA HQ in Washington, said: “Using the unparalleled data provided by Kepler, scientists are quite literally revolutionizing our understanding of stars and their structures.”

The 15ft long Kepler telescope has a mirror “eye” more than 3ft wide plus a 94-megapixel digital camera that is the most powerful ever sent into space. It is permanently trained on one arm of our Milky Way galaxy the width of about 20 full moons in the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus.

More information from NASA about Kepler’s starquake discoveries can be found here.

• Discover space for yourself and do fun science with a telescope. Here is Skymania’s advice on how to choose a telescope. We also have a guide to the different types of telescope available. Check out our monthly sky guide too!

©PAUL SUTHERLAND, Skymania.com

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