NASA’s New Ability to Measure Age of Stars a Huge Step Towards Finding Habitable Planets

NASA-Kepler-Mission-Search-Earth-Like-Habitable-Planets NASA's Kepler space telescope has taken a huge step towards measuring the ages of 500 sun-like stars, which will be a huge help to determines whether a star's planets are old enough for intelligent life to have evolved.

Stars vibrate at a range of different frequencies that depend on their internal structure, which changes as they age and are observed as tiny, regular changes in the star's brightness. The sun, for example, which is 4.6 billion years old, oscillates in many modes, with typical periods of 5 minutes, while its older neighbour Alpha Centauri A has oscillation periods of around 7 minutes.

Until the arrival of Kepler, the vibrations were so difficult to detect that astronomers had found them in just 25 stars. With Kepler, launched primarily to detect Earth-sized planets as they wobble in front of their suns, that number has dramatically increased by recording the vibrations of 500 stars (and counting) that are similar in temperature to our sun.

When the Kepler data has been analyzed, NASA astronomers should be able to calibrate the vibrations into an estimate of the stars' ages, with the benchmark being any that are at least as old as our sun and presumably be old enough to have allowed for the evolution of intelligent life.

The Daily Galaxy via Science

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