Strong magnetic fields discovered in majority of stars—Finding to impact understanding of stellar evolution
An international group of astronomers led by the University of Sydney has discovered strong magnetic fields are common in stars, not rare as previously thought, which will dramatically impact our understanding of how stars evolve.
Using data from NASA’s Kepler mission, the team found that stars only slightly more massive than the Sun have internal magnetic fields up to 10 million times that of the Earth, with important implications for evolution and the ultimate fate of stars.
“This is tremendously exciting, and totally unexpected,” said lead researcher, astrophysicist Associate Professor Dennis Stello from the University of Sydney.
“Because only 5-0 percent of stars were previously thought to host strong magnetic fields, current models of how stars evolve lack magnetic fields as a fundamental ingredient,” Associate Professor Stello said. “Such fields have simply been regarded insignificant for our general understanding of stellar evolution.
“Our result clearly shows this assumption needs to be revisited.”
The findings are published today in the journal Nature.
The research is based on previous work led by the Californian Institute of Technology (Caltech) and including Associate Professor Stello, which found that measurements of stellar oscillations, or sound waves, inside stars could be used to infer the presence of strong magnetic fields.
This latest research used that result to look at a large number of evolved versions of our Sun observed by Kepler. More than 700 of these so-called red giants were found to show the signature of strong magnetic fields,…