Astronomers have been studying the nature of blue supergiant stars for decades. Despite years of research, however, these stars have proven to be elusive and difficult to study because they live fast and die young.
Add that to the fact that research on blue supergiant stars have been limited by the kind of technology and equipment available years ago. Telescopes can probe far deep into space but cannot "see" the insides of stars.
Now, things have changed. A team of astronomers from Belgium and England has uncovered the secrets of blue supergiant stars, all thanks to recent data collected by NASA telescopes. These telescopes have allowed scientists to create models and simulations of the interior of stars.
The results of the study, which have been released in the journal Nature Astronomy, provide researchers with more knowledge and insight into the nature of elusive blue supergiant stars for the first time ever.
Uncovering The Secrets Of Elusive Blue Supergiant Stars
The blue supergiant star is one of the final burning phases before the death of a massive star. With surface temperatures of between 20,000 and 50,000 degrees Celsius, blue supergiant stars are quite hot and bright.
One of the most well-known blue supergiant stars is Rigel, which is the brightest star in the Orion constellation and has a mass that is at least 20 times that of the sun. Rigel is so bright that it gives out more light than 60,000 suns combined.
What scientists know about blue supergiant stars is that despite their short lives, their brightness allows them to be one of the most visible stars in the nightsky. However, although astronomers can see the surface of blue supergiant stars using telescopes, little is known about the insides of these stars and why they shine bright the way they do.
Using Astroseismology To Study Blue Supergiant Stars
In the new study, researchers led by Dr. Tamara Rogers from Newcastle University made use of space telescopes to peer into the waves that originate in the deep interior of blue supergiant stars. The technique, which is called asteroseismology, is similar to how seismologists use earthquakes to study the interior of Earth.
Rogers and her colleagues have been working for the past five years to create simulations of blue supergiant stars and they predicted that gravity waves could break at the surface of these stars. Additionally, they predicted a second type of wave, which are similar to seismic waves and are generated from deep within the supergiant star.
Together with scientists from KU Leuven in Belgium, Dr. Rogers discovered that blue supergiant stars shimmer and ripple in brightness because of the presence of the waves on their surface.
Dr. Rogers explained that gravity waves that break at the surface of the blue supergiant star are similar to waves breaking on the shoreline. The second type of wave, which was the standing wave, is similar to seismic waves on Earth.
From these two types of waves, Dr. Rogers and her colleagues can understand how the blue supergiant star is moving and rotating. Dominic Bowman, the corresponding author of the study, explained that they can now examine the chemistry and physics behind what is going on deep inside the star's interior and core. He said the frequencies can help them investigate how efficiently metal is produced and how it moves around within the star.
"The discovery of waves in so many blue supergiant stars was a eureka moment," Bowman added.