Listen to starquakes, the weird vibrations on the surface of stars

The European Space Agency's Gaia mission is using a one billion pixel orbiting camera to generate a 3D map of more than a thousand million stars in our Milky Way. The researchers have just released a trove of new data and were surprised by the instrument's ability to detect starquakes—"tiny motions on the surface of a star – that change the shapes of stars, something the observatory was not originally built for." You can listen to audio of the starquakes in the video above, translated into sound that we can perceive.

"Human beings cannot hear the true frequencies of these oscillation modes," Catholic University of Leuven astronomer Conny Aerts said. "We artificially multiplied them by a big factor of 8.6 million to bring them into the audible range of [human] ears."

From the European Space Agency:

Previously, Gaia already found radial oscillations that cause stars to swell and shrink periodically, while keeping their spherical shape. But Gaia has now also spotted other vibrations that are more like large-scale tsunamis. These nonradial oscillations change the global shape of a star and are therefore harder to detect.

Gaia found strong nonradial starquakes in thousands of stars. Gaia also revealed such vibrations in stars that have seldomly been seen before. These stars should not have any quakes according to the current theory, while Gaia did detect them at their surface.

"Starquakes teach us a lot about stars, notably their internal workings. Gaia is opening a goldmine for 'asteroseismology' of massive stars," says Conny Aerts of KU Leuven in Belgium, who is a member of the Gaia collaboration.

image: "Four sky maps made with the new ESA Gaia data released on 13 June 2022" (European Space Agency)