STEREO turns its steady gaze on variable stars

Apr 20, 2011
Image caption: A STEREO/HI-1A image taken on 7th March 2010 (left) with two variable stars highlighted in the image. The varying brightness of the two stars, V837 Tau and V1129 Tau are shown (right top and bottom, respectively). Credit: Image produced by D. Bewsher (UCLan). Data courtesy of NASA/STEREO and the HI instrument team.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers have discovered 122 new eclipsing binary stars and observed hundreds more variable stars in an innovative survey using NASA's two STEREO solar satellites. The survey has been carried out by team from the Open University, University of Central Lancashire and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Dr Danielle Bewsher presented highlights at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales on Tuesday 19th April.

STEREO was launched in 2006 to study the in 3D and coronal mass ejections, the cause of . Each carries a Heliospheric Imager (HI), each instrument comprising two cameras (HI-1 and HI-2) built and developed at the STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the University of Birmingham. The HI cameras are able to make such stable measurements that researchers can accurately monitor the brightness of stars in the background. 
 
"Although STEREO is primarily a solar mission, we recognised that the stability of the HI cameras could also be used to monitor variations of the brightness of stars," said Bewsher, of the University of Central Lancashire. "To date, 893 000 stars have passed through the HI-1 field-of-view alone, producing an unexpected resource of scientific data about the variability of stars that is currently being data mined."
 
The lead author, Karl Wraight, an STFC PhD student at the OU, has found the 122 new eclipsing binaries during an initial analysis of the data, and expects many more to be discovered.
 
"STEREO's ability to sample continuously for up to 20 days, coupled with repeat viewings from the twin spacecraft during the year, makes it an invaluable resource for researching . As well as making discoveries, observations from HI are enabling us to pin down the periods of known variables with much greater accuracy," said Wraight. 
 
In addition to studying variable stars, the team believes that HI measurements may be used for exoplanet and astroseismology research.
 
"Very small changes to the brightnesses of stars can be detected, which could reveal the presence of transiting exoplanets, or be used to trace a star’s internal structure by measuring their seismic activity," said Professor Glenn White (RAL and OU).

Explore further: Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Related Stories

A New Class of Variable Stars Revealed

Feb 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Modern astronomy sometimes makes discoveries by looking in new places, the distant universe for example, using telescopes and instruments that extend the previous limits of detection.

Our Suns fiery outbursts seen in 3D

Jul 17, 2006

UK solar scientists are eagerly awaiting the launch of NASAs STEREO mission which will provide the first ever 3D views of the Sun. STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) comprises two nearly identical ...

Scientists see solar outburst in exquisite detail

Apr 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The largest disturbances to the Earth's geomagnetic environment occur when it is buffeted by solar material hurled in our direction by explosive changes in the Sun's atmosphere. These Coronal ...

Comet McNaught - A First Light Present for STEREO

Jan 19, 2007

This image of Comet McNaught comes from the Heliospheric Imager on one of the STEREO spacecraft, taken Jan. 11, 2007. To the right is the comet nucleus, so bright it saturates the detector creating a bright ...

Recommended for you

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Apr 18, 2014

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Apr 18, 2014

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Exoplanets soon to gleam in the eye of NESSI

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
3 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2011
Since the Sun itself is a variable star, the results of this study may interest those who believe Earth's variable climate is linked to cyclic changes in the Sun.

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.