Professor Douglas Gough

Subject Astronomy
Fellow type Emeritus
Year started 1972


Professor Gough studies the sun - its structure and properties. Early in his research career, he discovered that the sun's oscillations could be used to probe the solar interior, and he started a new discipline which he called helioseismology, developing techniques to analyse the oscillations from procedures in use by geophysicists. He determined in minute detail how the sound-speed (which is closely related to temperature) varies throughout the sun, enabling him to construct a 'laboratory' to study matter under conditions that cannot be achieved on earth. He could thereby infer how much hydrogen there is, an important quantity because it is the fuel providing the energy with which the sun shines. In collaboration with colleagues, he determined how the Sun rotates, enabling him to complete an important test of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. He is now trying to determine the age of the sun to high precision, to shed light on the epoch during which our planetary system was formed, extending the work to other stars, via asteroseismology, to improve our knowledge of stellar ages, and hence of the ages of the galaxy and the Universe itself.