Author: L. A. Balona

Challenges in Stellar Pulsation

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ISBN: 978-1-60805-366-7 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-60805-185-4 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2010
DOI: 10.2174/97816080518541100101


Ever since some stars were found to pulsate in the early 20th century, stellar pulsation has been a major topic in astronomy and astrophysics. The huge amount of data recently available from observational surveys, new discoveries from space missions and studies of pulsating stars in low-metallicity environments have opened new perspectives and challenges. Nevertheless, progress in finding the holy grail of stellar pulsation – the use of pulsation to study stellar interiors (asteroseismology) – has been slow. The realization that a problem exists with the current stellar opacities is a major setback. CURRENT CHALLENGES IN STELLAR PULSATION describes the search for solutions to these problems over the last few years. It summarizes recent research in all fields of stellar pulsation, providing valuable guidelines to both students and researchers in the field.


As a result of a commitment to develop software for the Southern African Large Telescope, I had to break astronomical research for five years. To re-start research after this hiatus, I had to embark on an extensive study of the literature. This was no easy task, but I soon found myself organizing the comprehensive information in terms of chapter topics. It struck me that if these notes were helpful to me, they might be helpful to others, and so the idea behind this book was born.

This book is, in reality, a review of the state of research on pulsating stars over the last ten years, but I have included material which I hope will assist the young researcher who intends writing a PhD or even an undergraduate who is searching for an entry into a research career in this field. There is no in-depth description of stellar pulsation and few equations in this book. Several excellent books already exist which cover this topic. My aim was to provide a clear explanation in physical terms for the processes which occur in pulsating stars. The field of stellar pulsation is large and it is difficult to have a reasonable grasp of the main research results in all the different classes of pulsating stars. My hope is that this book will fill that gap. In particular, I have tried to highlight problems which offer a reasonable prospect for solution, which are the challenges referred to in the title.

At the end of each chapter there is a "Discussion" section. This section is a collection of thoughts which expresses my personal views on the topics. The idea is to provide a recapitulation of what is known and more importantly, what I believe needs to be explored.

A great motivating factor for writing this book is the encouragement I received from my colleagues. Without this support this book would certainly not have been written. I thank Michel Breger, Conny Aerts, Don Kurtz, Mike Jerzykiewicz and Hiromoto Shibahashi for their encouragement. Most of all I thank Wojtek Dziembowski for reading the book and supplying useful comments. I also thank Igor Soszynski for kindly allowing the inclusion of two of his figures and to Joyce Guzik for useful discussions. This book could not have been made without the use of NASA's Astrophysics Data System.

Luis A. Balona
Cape Town, February 2010