Twinkle, twinkle little star, oh how we do wonder how old you really are. It may be just an old nursery rhyme, but it does have a couple of points that makes it interesting. The little twinkle, twinkle, is like a dance, a rhythm and why not a heartbeat. The throbbing heart of a galaxy is nothing but a reflection of our own lives.
Just a like human being or any other living being for that matter, a star is born, it lives out its life, out there, on the cold verges of space and then, at the peak of its life, it begins to grow more luminous and graceful than ever.
As a star grow older, they undergo a series of transformations. They tend to extend their volume and at some point swallowing entire planets that are close to it. So is the fate of each star out, so shall be the fate of our own star. But, as the celestial body approaches its end, it has the tendency of giving away an unusual quantity of light. And as the star grows in brightness, it begins to pulsate. The pulsation refers to sudden changes in a star’s brightness. The phenomenon usually occurs every few hundred years.
Unfortunately, no one has taken into consideration the more distant celestial bodies. Usually, bright light emanating from larger celestial bodies tend to mask smaller star. So, scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center decided to take a closer look at the more distant galaxies in order to further observe the celestial transformations.
Their goal was to detect a set of subtle pulsation emanating from all the stars in a galaxy. And so started a 3-month observation period. By using the Hubble space telescope, the member of the prestigious congregation managed to uncover some peculiar facts about the stars.
The perfect candidate for their research endeavor was the M87 galaxy, which 53 million light-years away from Earth. The project started in 2006. So, what did the scientists find? Upon a closer observation, the team of researchers discovered some discrepancies in the images provided by Hubble. It would seem that one out of four pixels changes in those photographs would undergo a transformation. According to early estimations, it would seem that the picture pixels would change every 270 days.
By measuring the intensity and the frequency of the galaxy’s heartbeat, given away by the changing pixels, scientists are able to determine the actual age of a galaxy. And it would seem that M87 is about 10 billion years old.