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Astronomers detect signature of magnetic discipline on an exoplanet

Hubble’s observations of an prolonged area of charged carbon particles that encompass the exoplanet HAT-P-11b and streaming away in a protracted tail are finest defined by magnetic discipline, the primary such discovery on a planet exterior of our solar system. The planet is depicted because the small circle close to the middle. Carbon ions fill an immense area it. In the magnetotail, not proven to its full extent, ions escape on the noticed common speeds of about 100,000 mph. 1 AU equals the space between the Earth and the sun. Credit: Lotfi Ben-Jaffel/Institute of Astrophysics, Paris

Researchers have recognized the primary signature of a magnetic discipline surrounding a planet exterior of our solar system. Earth’s magnetic discipline acts as a protect in opposition to energetic particles from the sun generally known as the solar wind. Magnetic fields might play related roles on different planets.

An worldwide group of astronomers used information from the Hubble Space Telescope to find the signature of a magnetic discipline in a planet exterior our solar system. The discovering, described in a paper within the journal Nature Astronomy, marks the primary time such a characteristic has been seen on an exoplanet.

A magnetic discipline finest explains the observations of an prolonged area of charged carbon particles that encompass the planet and stream away from it in a long tail. Magnetic fields play a vital position in defending planetary atmospheres, so the power to detect the magnetic fields of exoplanets is a big step towards higher understanding what these alien worlds might appear to be.

The group used Hubble to look at the exoplanet HAT-P-11b, a Neptune-sized planet 123 light-years from Earth, go straight throughout the face of its host star six instances in what is called a “transit.” The observations had been made within the ultraviolet mild spectrum, which is simply past what the human eye can see.

Hubble detected carbon ions—charged particles that work together with magnetic fields—surrounding the planet in what is called a magnetosphere. A magnetosphere is a area round a celestial object (corresponding to Earth) that’s fashioned by the item’s interplay with the solar wind emitted by its host star.

“This is the first time the signature of an exoplanet’s magnetic field has been directly detected on a planet outside our solar system,” stated Gilda Ballester, an adjunct analysis professor on the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and one of many paper’s co-authors. “A strong magnetic field on a planet like Earth can protect its atmosphere and surface from direct bombardment of the energetic particles that make up the solar wind. These processes heavily affect the evolution of life on a planet like Earth because the magnetic field shelters organisms from these energetic particles.”

The discovery of HAT-P-11b’s magnetosphere is a big step towards an improved understanding of the habitability of an exoplanet. Not all planets and moons in our solar system have their very own magnetic fields, and the connection between magnetic fields and a planet’s habitability nonetheless wants extra examine, in response to the researchers.

“HAT-P-11 b has proven to be a very exciting target, because Hubble’s UV transit observations have revealed a magnetosphere, seen as both an extended ion component around the planet and long tail of escaping ions,” Ballester stated, including that this basic technique may very well be used to detect magnetospheres on a wide range of exoplanets and to evaluate their position in potential habitability.

Ballester, a principal investigator of one of many Hubble Space Telescope packages that noticed HAT-P-11b, contributed to the choice of this particular goal for UV research. A key discovery was the remark of carbon ions not solely in a area surrounding the planet, but in addition extending in a protracted tail that streamed away from the planet at common speeds of 100,000 mph. The tail reached into space for a minimum of 1 astronomical unit, the space between Earth and sun.

Researchers led by the paper’s first writer, Lotfi Ben-Jaffel on the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris, then used 3D pc simulations to mannequin interactions between the planet’s uppermost atmospheric areas and magnetic discipline with the incoming solar wind.

“Just like Earth’s magnetic field and its immediate space environment interact with the impinging solar wind, which consists of charged particles traveling at about 900,000 mph, there are interactions between HAT-P-11b’s magnetic field and its immediate space environment with the solar wind from its host star, and those are very complex,” Ballester defined.

The physics within the magnetospheres of Earth and HAT-P-11b are the identical; nonetheless, the exoplanet’s shut proximity to its star—simply one-twentieth of the space from the Earth to the sun—causes its higher ambiance to heat and primarily “boil off” into space, ensuing within the formation of the magnetotail.

Researchers additionally discovered that the metallicity of HAT-P-11b’s ambiance—the variety of chemical components in an object which can be heavier than hydrogen and helium—is decrease than anticipated. In our solar system, the icy gasoline planets, Neptune and Uranus, are wealthy in metals however have weak magnetic fields, whereas the a lot bigger gasoline planets, Jupiter and Saturn, have low metallicity and robust magnetic fields. HAT-P-11b’s low atmospheric metallicity challenges present fashions of exoplanet formation, the authors say.

“Although HAT-P-11b’s mass is only 8% of that of Jupiter, we think the exoplanet more resembles a mini-Jupiter than a Neptune,” Ballester stated. “The atmospheric composition we see on HAT-P-11b suggests that further work needs to be done to refine current theories of how certain exoplanets form in general.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a mission of worldwide cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The observations had been made via the next packages: Small HST Program #14625 devoted to HAT-P-11b (principal investigator Gilda E. Ballester) and the HST Treasury Program #14767 named PanCET: The Panchromatic Comparative Exoplanetary Treasury program (co- principal investigators David Ok. Sing and Mercedes López-Morales).

The paper, “Signatures of Strong Magnetization and a Metal-Poor Atmosphere for a Neptune-Size Exoplanet” is printed within the Dec. 16 concern of Nature Astronomy.

An absolutely bonkers plan to give Mars an artificial magnetosphere

More info:
Lotfi Ben-Jaffel et al, Signatures of sturdy magnetization and a metal-poor ambiance for a Neptune-sized exoplanet, Nature Astronomy (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01505-x

Astronomers detect signature of magnetic discipline on an exoplanet (2021, December 21)
retrieved 21 December 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-12-astronomers-signature-magnetic-field-exoplanet.html

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