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Dr. Michael Reed
Photo by Kevin White

Dr. Michael Reed

Professor of astronomy

His research

With help from funding through NASA and the National Science Foundation, Reed is currently studying how stars vibrate using images from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

This space telescope orbits the sun. On its original mission, it observed one set of stars, taking a picture every minute, for four years.

Now in its extended mission, it looks at a different set of stars every 90 days, providing the most accurate data ever obtained.

Reed and his team analyze these images to see the stars’ vibrations and discover what is going on inside.

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“Imagine you’re listening to an orchestra,” said Reed. “Every instrument has its own set of sounds, and stars are just like that. They have a whole bunch of variations within them, and each of those variations tells you something about a different region inside of the star.”

Reed then classifies the different vibrations coming from the star.

In the last 10 years, Reed has received more than $1.2 million in funding to advance his research. His team has published more than 15 papers in which they have unveiled differences in the chemical stratification within these stars, discovered stars with close companions and even identified one that spins more slowly in the center than at the surface.

How this helps us here on Earth

“These are stars that our sun will be like in another five billion years,” said Reed. “By understanding these stars, we can understand what’s going to happen to our solar system and the environment of our solar neighborhood in the far future.”