Astronomers at Birmingham are playing a leading role in the asteroseismology programme of TESS, NASA’s new exoplanet and stellar astrophysics mission. This will survey the brightest stars across the sky to detect planets orbiting the stars and will also study the stars themselves to reveal their size, mass, age, and even their internal structure.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will provide a unique census of stellar systems in the local solar neighbourhood, our own cosmological back-yard, many of them visible by the naked eye and simply looking up at the night sky. Birmingham’s Professor Bill Chaplin leads the TESS working groups responsible for asteroseismology of Sun-like and planet-hosting stars.

What is asteroseismology?

Asteroseismology is the study of stars by observation of their gentle oscillations, the natural resonances of the stars. It provides us with a unique window on the interiors of the stars and an ability to paint an exquisite portrait of the properties and characteristics of the stars, and any planets they may host.

Asteroseismology at Birmingham
Professor Bill Chaplin

Professor Bill Chaplin

Professor of Astrophysics, School of Physics and Astronomy

“When you look up at the sky on a clear night do you ever ask yourself: how many of the twinkling stars have planets, like the planets orbiting our own Sun? And how many of those planets may be capable of harbouring life, like the precious planet we live on? Is there some special combination of properties that a star must possess to elevate the chances of it hosting a habitable planet? The discovery and characterisation of other exoplanet systems in our Galaxy allows us to address these questions, and place our own solar system (and our place within the Universe) in a better context.”

How do you find new planets when you can’t see them?

Read full press release