Birthdays of Stars: Scientists Reveal Ages of Stars by Its Spin

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We may forget when the first world war was fought or we may not remember when a king was crowned, but there is one day we never forget- it’s our birthday. As kids, we wait for our birthdays with great impatience and eagerness, and as it arrives, it calls for a celebration. However, with the passage of time this excitement fades and dullness takes over. But have you ever pondered about the stars, what about their ages? Discover with fossBytes the journey to find the ages of the stars?

You will be amazed to know that in this instance, we are not alone. The twinkling stars of the night sky do undergo the same. In spite of the fact that the ages of stars are well-kept secrets, it is known that they also slow down as they age. Astronomers are using this fact as a key to get to know their stellar ages.

Soren Meibom of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics ( CFA ) quoted:
Our goal is to construct a clock that can measure accurate and precise ages of stars from their spins. We have taken another significant step towards building that clock.” 

Meibom presented his team’s finding at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Their conclusion marks the very first extension of such observation from stars with ages beyond 1 billion years towards 4.6 billion years of age of Sun. This finding will form the basis for further stellar astronomical studies in the future.

Also read: Eight New Planets Discovered In Goldilocks Zone: NASA

Being able to tell the stellar ages would be beneficial in tracing the imprints of alien life outside our solar system.With an accurate stellar clock, we would be able to identify solar systems with planets that are as old as our Sun or even older than it is.

A star’s spin not only depends on its age but its mass is also an important aspect in this respect. Astronomers have concluded that the stars which are heavier and larger, tend to spin faster than the smaller and lighter ones. This new finding reveals a close relationship between mass, spin and age.This relationship can be used to derive the third constant by studying the other two.

The co-author Sydeny Barnes of the Leizbniz Institute For Astrophysics in Germany explains:
“We have found that the relationship between mass, rotation rate and age is now defined well enough by observations that we can obtain the ages of individual stars to within 10 percent. “

Bernes first proposed this method in 2003, building on prior work, and called it Gyrochronology from the Greek words- Gyros( rotation), Chronos ( time/age ), and logos ( study ). Unfortunately, Gyrochronology came up with much problems. For gyrochronology ages to be accurate and precise, astronomers must calibrate their new clock by measuring the spin periods of stars with both known ages and masses.

Meibom stated:
” This is an important new tool for astronomers studying the evolution of stars and their companions, and one that can help identify planets old enough for complex life to have evolved.”

This was published online on the website of the journal Nature on Jan5 ,2015. It is the part of the broader Kepler Cluster study, for which Meibom is the principal investigator.

Source: Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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Pragati Verma

Pragati Verma

An amateur blogger interested in science, space and things around me.

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