Milky Way galaxy

ARC Laureate Fellow asks 'How old are the stars?'   

31 August 2022

$2.5 million fellowship to look inside stars 

Professor Tim Bedding, from the School of Physics in the Faculty of Science, will receive almost $2.5 million from the Australian Research Council to look inside stars in extraordinary detail and measure their ages with unprecedented precision.

As one of just 16 top scientists awarded a prestigious ARC Laureate Fellowship in 2022, Professor Bedding is recognised as a researcher who is playing a significant, sustained leadership and mentoring role in building Australia's internationally competitive research capacity.

Using asteroseismology – the study of star quakes – Professor Bedding will study the ages of large numbers of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way, to help understand how it formed and developed.

"It’s an honour to be named as an ARC Laureate Fellow, and wonderful recognition of the work our team has done over many years," said Professor Bedding.

"Stars are the building blocks of the Universe. Understanding their structure and evolution underpins much of modern astrophysics, from characterising the growing number of extra-solar planets to unravelling the history of our Milky Way galaxy," explained Professor Bedding.

"Stars are enormous balls of gas held together by gravity, and can pulsate in very complicated ways that we can study to learn more about them. The oscillation frequencies of a star let us measure its internal properties, which allows us to understand its age and structure," said Professor Bedding.

"Measuring stellar oscillations is a beautiful physics experiment: the oscillation frequencies depend on the sound speed inside the star, which in turn depends on density, temperature and other properties of the stellar interior. The process, called asteroseismology, is analogous to the way geologists use earthquakes to study the interior of the Earth."

Professor Bedding has played a leading role in establishing the field of asteroseismology, and pioneered the detection of stellar oscillations with ground-based telescopes, to make the first clear detections of oscillations in sun-like stars.

Using data from NASA’s Kepler Mission, Professor Bedding’s team led the application of asteroseismology to red giant stars, revealing which red giants have started to burn helium deep within their cores.

"The ARC Laureate Fellowship funding will allow me to advance our research to generate a deep understanding of the processes that occur inside stars, as well as to mentor a new generation of researchers, and cement Australia as a world leader in stellar astrophysics."

Professor Bedding’s outstanding research was recognised with his election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2020.

ARC Chief Executive Officer, Judi Zielke, said, "Laureate Fellows are at the forefront of the national research landscape and are essential in expanding Australia’s knowledge base and research capability."

Katynna Parry

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