POTSDAM, Germany, May 17 (UPI) — For the first time, researchers have measured the rotational spin of stars within a cluster nearly as old as the sun.
The stars that populate the 4 billion-year-old open cluster M67 complete a single rotation in an average of 26 days — the same spin rate as the sun.
Confirming similarities between the sun and faraway stars is important for astronomers who use the study of sun-like stars to infer information about our sun’s past — and likewise, for astronomers who use the study of our sun to infer information about distant stars.
Much astrophysical research relies on the principle known as the solar-stellar connection.
Because stellar rotation and magnetic phenomena are linked, this particular study strengthens the solar-stellar connection as it relates to the study of solar flares, coronal ejections and similar phenomena.
To measure stellar spin rates, researchers with the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam and Johns Hopkins University used the Kepler Space Telescope to track the movement of sunspots along the surfaces of stars within cluster M67.
Scientists published their findings this week in the Astrophysical Journal.
“We had predicted this would occur, but it has been a real privilege to have been able to actually make the measurements,” study author Sydney Barnes, an astrophysicist at AIP, said in a news release.
“With the measured rotational periods for stars up to the age of our Sun we can now confidently trace back the evolution of our home star,” added study co-author Jörg Weingrill.