Associate Prof CA Engelbrecht leads research in Asteroseismology in the Department of Physics. Asteroseismology exploits the very sensitive dependence of the normal modes of oscillation of a physical system on the structure and composition of the object (think of musical instruments), to explore the interior structure and dynamics of stars by measuring their oscillation spectra. It is customary to refer to oscillations in stars as “stellar pulsations”. The launch of the Kepler space telescope in 2009 ushered in a new golden age for this field of research. A follow-up space mission, TESS, launched in 2018, is now allowing us to build even further on the remarkable insights generated by Kepler.
At the time of writing (2019), Prof Engelbrecht is actively working with a team based In Turkey, led by Prof. Derya Sürgit of Cannakale Onsekiz Mart University, and another team, led by Dr David Mkrtichian at the National Astronomy Institute in Thailand. Both of these (independent) projects explore how physical processes like inter-star mass transfer and tidal effects influence the behaviour of pulsating stars in close binary systems.
Telescopes at the Sutherland site of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) are used in these projects. Data from TESS and Kepler are exploited in various postgraduate research projects supervised by Prof Engelbrecht.