November 26, 2022

Colliding magnetic fields reveal unknown planets

The presence and dimension of a magnetic field therefore provides astronomers with an indication of the habitability of a planet

Ph. D. candidate astronomer Rob Kavanagh has developed mathematical models to higher understand the interactions between exoplanets and stellar winds and to define features of exoplanets.

Exoplanets are usually planets that orbit close to other stars than the sun. They are sometimes difficult to identify, but now it appears that interactions between exoplanets and stellar winds produce signals that radio stations telescopes can detect. Good winds are hot channels of charged particles that continuously escape from the areas of stars such as the sunlight.

“ Whenever stellar winds collide using the magnetic fields of orbiting planets, the interaction can make a bright emission. On the World, we can see such emission since the  northern lamps , ” says Kavanagh.

Modeling stellar winds

Last year, hints of such interactions occurring consist of stellar systems were discovered with the radio telescope LOFAR (Low-Frequency Array) for the first time. “ Around twenty dwarf stars were found that emit radio emission. This could be because of exoplanets orbiting around these types of stars, although they are not currently known to host any exoplanets, ” says Kavanagh. In mathematical models he imitates stellar wind environments. This way, Kavanagh hopes to better understand the signals that are generated with the interaction between exoplanets plus stellar winds.

“ Kavanagh’s research will also help to interpret LOFAR’s new observations, ” says their supervisor Aline Vidotto of the Leiden Observatory.

Exploring exoplanets

Kavanagh’s models are not only useful for detecting new  exoplanets . Stereo emission also provides all sorts of information about, for example , the size of the entire world and its orbit around its  parent star . Kavanagh said, “ Taking a look at the planets within our own solar system, we anticipate that large  planets , orbiting close to their parent star, will generate the strongest radio signals. ”

In addition , the strength of the emission may also reveal something about the attributes of the  good winds   by themselves and the size of the permanent magnet field around an  exoplanet . “ Important information, because it is likely that the Globe’s magnetic field has ensured that we now have an atmosphere, ” Kavanagh stated. The presence and size of a  magnetic field   therefore provides astronomers with an indication of the habitability of a planet. “ And that comes in handy in the search for extraterrestrial life. ”


Kavanagh is now working as a postdoc at ASTRON, the Netherlands Company for Radio Astronomy. “ Here I will continue to develop models and I will also begin looking into brown  little stars . These  stars   give off a huge amount of radio emission, which is puzzling. The more I think about this, the stranger I find it, ” Kavanagh laughs.

Meanwhile, Vidotto is usually happy that Kavanagh is staying in the Netherlands, looking forward to long term collaborations. “ We began our research together in Ireland, but halfway by means of Kavanagh’s Ph. D., I actually moved to Leiden to make it easier to collaborate with my colleague-astronomers, ” says Vidotto. Right after some doubt, Kavanagh became a member of his supervisor. “ It was a huge challenge to abruptly emigrate in the middle of a pandemic, but I’m glad Used to do. ”

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