Paris, Oct 24 : The COROT satellite has used a technique similar to seismology to detect the presence of stellar quakes in three stars, an observation that has been made for the first time in stars apart from our own.
COROT, which is a joint collaboration between CNES and ESA (European Space Agency), used the seismology-like technique to directly probe the interiors of stars beyond the Sun for the first time.
When global oscillations of the Sun were discovered, scientists realised they opened a window to the Sun's interior.
Like the propagation of seismic waves on Earth providing information about our planet's interior, sound waves travel throughout the Sun carrying information about what is happening below the surface.
These oscillations can also be observed on other stars.
They can be detected through the variation in the light emitted by the star as the surface wobbles - the technique used by COROT.
This reveals the internal structure of the star, and the way energy is transported from the core to the surface.
According to Malcolm Fridlund, ESA Project Scientist for COROT at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), in the Netherlands, the key to detecting such small stellar oscillations from big distances is not only the sensitivity of an instrument, but also the opportunity of observing the star without interruption.
"Any interruption produces noise in the data that can cover a signal completely. Therefore, to be certain, we must approach the question with the right instruments and from space," he said.
The three stars probed by COROT - known as HD499933, HD181420 and HD181906 - are similar to the Sun.
They are not exactly in our stellar neighbourhood, but rather far away, so their brightness doesn't blind COROT's instruments.
"The fact that COROT succeeded in probing the interior of Sun-like stars with direct measurements for the first time is a huge leap in understanding stars in general", said Fridlund. "In addition, this will help us to understand, by comparison, our own Sun even better," he added.