Measuring the vertical age structure of the Galactic disc using asteroseismology and SAGA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The existence of a vertical age gradient in the Milky Way disc has been indirectly known for long. Here, we measure it directly for the first time with seismic ages, using red giants observed by Kepler. We use Stromgren photometry to gauge the selection function of asteroseismic targets, and derive colour and magnitude limits where giants with measured oscillations are representative of the underlying population in the field. Limits in the 2MASS system are also derived. We lay out a method to assess and correct for target selection effects independent of Galaxy models. We find that low-mass, i. e. old red giants dominate at increasing Galactic heights, whereas closer to the Galactic plane they exhibit a wide range of ages and metallicities. Parametrizing this as a vertical gradient returns approximately 4 Gyr kpc(-1) for the disc we probe, although with a large dispersion of ages at all heights. The ages of stars show a smooth distribution over the last similar or equal to 10 Gyr, consistent with a mostly quiescent evolution for the Milky Way disc since a redshift of about 2. We also find a flat age-metallicity relation for disc stars. Finally, we show how to use secondary clump stars to estimate the present-day intrinsic metallicity spread, and suggest using their number count as a new proxy for tracing the ageing of the disc. This work highlights the power of asteroseismology for Galactic studies; however, we also emphasize the need for better constraints on stellar mass-loss, which is a major source of systematic age uncertainties in red giant stars.


  • L. Casagrande
  • V. Silva Aguirre
  • K. J. Schlesinger
  • D. Stello
  • D. Huber
  • A. M. Serenelli
  • R. Schoenrich
  • S. Cassisi
  • A. Pietrinferni
  • S. Hodgkin
  • A. P. Milone
  • Sofia Feltzing
  • M. Asplund
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


  • asteroseismology, stars: distances, stars: fundamental parameters, stars: general, Galaxy: disc, Galaxy: evolution
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)987-1007
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Luca Casagrande, Sofia Feltzing, Christian Sahlholdt & Pieter Gruyters

Kungliga Fysiografiska Sällskapet i Lund

Project: Research

View all (1)