One of the most recent and exciting branches of astronomy, helioseismology—like its terrestrial counterpart—studies why the surface of the sun vibrates like a bell. Over the past three decades astronomers have gained spectacular insights into the structure and composition of the sun's interior, transforming the way we understand stellar matter. In Sunquakes, Jack B. Zirker tells the story of this new science and explains the physics behind these illuminating vibrations.
Zirker recounts the discovery of solar oscillations in the early 1960s and international efforts throughout the rest of the decade to explain this phenomenon. By the mid-1970s, scientists working independently in France, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. had developed a new theoretical model of the sun that postulated the existence of trapped sound and gravity waves as the cause for the roiling of the sun's surface. Using solar oscillation data, scientists derived for the first time the thermal and dynamic properties of the solar interior and revealed its complicated rotation patterns; even such astronomical mysteries as the deficit of solar neutrinos were solved.
Describing the competition and cooperation between astronomers, particle physicists, and other theorists to the technological innovations that makes solar observation more and more precise, Sunquakes provides professionals and nonscientists alike with an absorbing and accessible guide to the field of helioseismology. The book concludes with an account of recent efforts to probe the interiors of stars far beyond our own solar system.