Scientists first discovered a magnetic field near an exoplanet

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope for the first time to discover a magnetic field signature on a planet outside the solar system. This is reported by the University of Arizona, whose scientists participated in the study.

“This was the first time such a feature was noticed on an exoplanet. The magnetic field best explains the observations of an extended region of charged carbon particles that surround the planet and move away from it in the form of a long tail,” the message says.

It is noted that the physics in magnetospheres (the magnetosphere is formed as a result of the interaction of a space object with a flow of charged particles (plasma) emitted by its host star) of the Earth and exoplanet HAT-P-11b is the same. However, the latter’s proximity to its star – only one-twentieth of the distance from Earth to the Sun – causes its upper atmosphere to heat up and essentially “boil” in space, resulting in a magnetic tail.

Magnetic fields play a critical role in protecting planetary atmospheres, so the ability to detect the magnetic fields of exoplanets is a significant step towards a better understanding of what these alien worlds might look like, scientists say.

HAT-P-11b is a Neptune-sized planet located 123 light years from Earth. Scientists have observed six passages of the planet against the background of the surface of its host star in a so-called transit. The observations were carried out in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum.

Hubble has discovered carbon ions – charged particles that interact with the planet’s magnetic fields.

The researchers also found that the metallicity of the atmosphere of HAT-P-11b – the number of chemical elements in the object that are heavier than hydrogen and helium – is lower than expected. In the solar system, the icy gas planets, Neptune and Uranus, are rich in metals but have weak magnetic fields, while the much larger gas planets, Jupiter and Saturn, have low metallicities and strong magnetic fields.

According to the authors of the study, the low metallicity of the atmosphere of HAT-P-11b poses a challenge to current models of exoplanet formation in general. Although the mass of the exoplanet is only 8% of the mass of Jupiter, experts believe that the exoplanet looks more like a mini-Jupiter than Neptune.

The Hubble Space Telescope is an international collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency.


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