Scientists have discovered that super magnetic stars with highly energetic magnetic fields could possess stellar winds that are harsh enough to drive away the atmospheres of orbiting planets. This strange occurrence can make exoplanets with such stars become entirely inhospitable for sustaining life. The study was conducted by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP). The researchers conducted simulations to come up with the latest discovery.
How Scientists conducted the study on Super Magnetic Stars
While the scientists were conducting the study, they discovered that some charge particles that contain the stellar winds of super magnetic stars could attain high speeds that are five times faster than the average speed of our sun’s solar wind. Keep in mind that our star’s solar wind travels around 1 million miles per hour (1.6 million kilometers per hour).
Hence, the study reveals that exoplanets orbiting these cool stars could encounter highly charged particles moving at high speeds of 5 million miles per hour (8 million kilometers per hour). Scientists said that this is about 6,000 times the speed of a bullet fired by a handgun.
At this tremendous speed, the charged particles could be powerful enough to destroy the conditions required to sustain lifeform on any exoplanet known to humankind. Even if the planets orbit in the habitable zone of its star, the extremely high speed of the particles will wipe out any form of lifeform on its surface.
Why cool stars May Not Support Life
The team that conducted this research identified the super magnetic stars as cool stars and they consist of stellar bodies classified into four categories: F-type, G-type, K-type, and M-type stars. Scientists identify these categories based on temperature, size, and brightness. Scientists revealed that our sun is an average star that belongs to a G-type star.
Studies have proven that G-type stars are more massive and brighter than F-type stars. Cooler stars that are smaller than our sun belong to the M-type category. Astronomers refer to M-type stars as red dwarfs. Researchers have discovered that faint stars are the most common stellar bodies in the Milky Way. However, their low light brightness made them difficult for proper observation by our telescope. Always note that stars produce stellar winds just like their put-out light as well.
These powerful winds contain charged particles that affect the orbiting planets are these stars. For instance, auroras that display over Earth’s north and south poles are due to the interaction between our planet and our solar winds. As these stellar winds produced by the sun reach our Earth’s magnetic bubble, which is the magnetosphere, a lot of processes occur. These processes often lead to the glowing of green pattern in the Earth’s sky.
However, studying the solar winds in space can be quite challenging. Scientists hope to study the impact of these stellar winds on thin and wispy gas that reside between stars in the Milky Way. Even though this method is only applicable to a few stars, it will still enable astronomers to learn more about stellar winds. During the recent study, the team of researchers used numerical simulations and computer models to clearly understand solar winds without the need of conducting direct observation.
How Researchers Used Computer Model To Come Up With This New Study About Super Magnetic Stars
The study team created a powerful model based on the properties of 21 detailed observed stars while working with the supercomputing facilities of the AIP and the Leibniz Rechenzentrum (LRZ). The model enables the researchers to study how properties such as the stars’ magnetic field strength, gravities, and orbital periods affect their stellar wind velocities.
The scientists were able to predict the exact size of the unique boundary between a star’s corona called the Alfvén surface. This boundary between a stellar’s corona is its outer atmosphere and its stellar wind. The study also helped the team to determine if planets orbiting around a particular star periodically enter the Alfvén surface, or are entirely embedded within it. If they occasionally enter the Alfvén surface, this could lead to powerful magnetic interactions between a planet and its host star.
The researchers discovered that K-type and M-type stars with magnetic fields that are more powerful than that of our sun possess faster solar winds than our star. This implies that planets orbiting around this type of star would encounter harsher environments. The researchers also revealed that stellar winds of F- and G-types stars are not so harsh as solar winds around M-types like our sun.
Since stellar winds are one of the several ways the stars lose their materials over time, the team of researchers may be inspired to study the mass-loss process going on within the stars. This research is the first systematic study of solar winds that relates with F-type, G-type, K-type, and M-type stars categories. The team of scientists published their findings in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The discovery of harsher solar winds could make life impossible on some exoplanets. While this study appears quite fascinating to the search for life outside our solar system, scientists will still need to conduct more advanced studies to understand the nature of distance exoplanets orbiting around super magnetic stars. What do you think about this interesting study?