Discovery of post-mass-transfer helium-burning red giants using asteroseismology - INSU - Institut national des sciences de l'Univers Access content directly
Journal Articles Nature Astronomy Year : 2022

Discovery of post-mass-transfer helium-burning red giants using asteroseismology

Yaguang Li
  • Function : Author
Timothy R. Bedding
  • Function : Author
Simon J. Murphy
  • Function : Author
Dennis Stello
Yifan Chen
  • Function : Author
Daniel Huber
Meridith Joyce
Dion Marks
  • Function : Author
Xianfei Zhang
  • Function : Author
Shaolan Bi
  • Function : Author
Isabel L. Colman
  • Function : Author
Michael R. Hayden
  • Function : Author
Daniel R. Hey
  • Function : Author
Benjamin T. Montet
  • Function : Author
Sanjib Sharma
  • Function : Author
Yaqian Wu
  • Function : Author


A star expands to become a red giant when it has fused all the hydrogen in its core into helium. If the star is in a binary system, its envelope can overflow onto its companion or be ejected into space, leaving a hot core and potentially forming a subdwarf B star1-3. However, most red giants that have partially transferred envelopes in this way remain cool on the surface and are almost indistinguishable from those that have not. Among ~7,000 helium-burning red giants observed by NASA's Kepler mission, we use asteroseismology to identify two classes of stars that must have undergone considerable mass loss, presumably due to stripping in binary interactions. The first class comprises about seven underluminous stars with smaller helium-burning cores than their single-star counterparts. Theoretical models show that these small cores imply the stars had much larger masses when ascending the red giant branch. The second class consists of 32 red giants with masses down to 0.5 M, whose implied ages would exceed the age of the universe had no mass loss occurred. The numbers are consistent with binary statistics, and our results open up new possibilities to study the evolution of post-mass-transfer binary systems.

Dates and versions

insu-03672019 , version 1 (19-05-2022)



Yaguang Li, Timothy R. Bedding, Simon J. Murphy, Dennis Stello, Yifan Chen, et al.. Discovery of post-mass-transfer helium-burning red giants using asteroseismology. Nature Astronomy, 2022, ⟨10.1038/s41550-022-01648-5⟩. ⟨insu-03672019⟩
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