How Scientists Measure Stellar Distances Using Stellar Music

The Gaia mission, essential for mapping nearly two billion stars, is being further advanced by EPFL research using asteroseismology. This innovative approach compares Gaia measurements with asteroseismic data to improve the accuracy of celestial distance measurements, contributing significantly to astronomical research and future space missions. Credit: SciTechDaily.com

A team of astronomers used asteroseismology, or the study of stellar oscillations, to accurately measure the distance of stars from Earth. Their research examined thousands of stars and verified measurements made during the Gaia mission to explore the nearby universe.

To most of us, the countless bright spots in the night sky look like stars. But in fact, some of these spots are actually planets, or distant suns, or even entire galaxies billions of light years away. Exactly what you see depends on how far it is from Earth. That’s why measuring the exact distance to celestial objects is such an important goal for astronomers—and one of the biggest challenges they’re currently tackling.

Contribution to the Gaia mission

With this in mind, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Gaia mission ten years ago. Data collected by the Gaia satellite opens a window into the nearby universe, providing astronomical measurements—such as position, distance from Earth, and motion—of nearly two billion stars.

Gaia Mapping Stars Milky Way

Artist’s view of the Gaia satellite in front of the Milky Way. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; background: ESO/S. Brunier

At EPFL, the Standard Candles and Distances research group, led by Prof. Richard Anderson, seeks to measure the ongoing expansion of the universe and sees Gaia as a valuable tool. “Gaia has increased by a factor of 10,000 the number of stars whose parallaxes are measured thanks to a huge increase in

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