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TESS Helps Astronomers Study Red-giant Stars, Examine a Too-close Planet

26 Nov 2019, 11:23 UTC
TESS Helps Astronomers Study Red-giant Stars, Examine a Too-close Planet
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NASA’s planet-hunting TESS Mission keeps giving astronomers new realities to examine and explain. Case in point: astronomers using the tools of asteroseismology – the observations and measurements of a star’s oscillations, or starquakes, that appear as changes in brightness – have learned more about two stars bright enough to be visible in a dark sky to the naked eye. These red-giant stars – older, “retired” stars no longer burning hydrogen in their cores – are known as HD 212771 and HD 203949.Both stars are known to host their own planets. And the TESS data indicate one of those “exoplanets” (the general term for planets that orbit stars other than our sun) is so close to its host star it shouldn’t have survived the star’s expansion as a red giant – if, that is, the star is old enough to have expanded and retreated.Steve Kawaler, an Iowa State University distinguished professor of physics and astronomy, and Miles Lucas, a recent Iowa State graduate and current doctoral student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, are part of the TESS asteroseismology study team.“We listened to the notes the stars were singing,” Kawaler said. “We used that data to determine actual values – ...

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