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University of Sydney astrophysicists are behind a major breakthrough in the study of the senior citizens of our galaxy: stars known as Red Giants. Using high precision brightness measurements taken by the Kepler spacecraft, scientists have been able to distinguish profound differences inside the cores of stars that otherwise look the same on the surface.

The discovery, published in the latest edition of the journal Nature and made possible by observations using NASA's powerful Kepler space telescope, is shedding new light on the evolution of stars, including our own sun.

The paper's lead author, the University of Sydney's Professor Tim Bedding, explains, "Red giants are evolved stars that have exhausted the supply of hydrogen in their cores that powers nuclear fusion, and instead burn hydrogen in a surrounding shell. Towards the end of their lives, red giants begin burning the helium in their cores."



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