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Strong Magnetic Fields Common Among Majority Of Stars

First Posted: Jan 11, 2016 01:14 PM EST
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A team of international astronomers have discovered that the majority of stars have strong magnetic fields. The researchers' study is enabling them to have a better understanding of stellar evolution. They found that strong magnetic fields are quite common among stars and apparently the process is not as rare as previously thought. Using data from NASA's Kepler mission, they found that stars that are bigger than the sun have internal magnetic fields that are 10 million times the size of the Earth, which may be responsible for the evolution and death of some stars.

"This is tremendously exciting, and totally unexpected. Because only 50 percent of stars were previously thought to host strong magnetic fields, current models of how stars evolve lack magnetic fields as a fundamental ingredient," Dennis Stello, astrophysicist and lead author of the study from the University of Sydney, said in a news release. "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 researchers looked into several evolved versions of the sun, which were observed using Kepler. They found that over 700 so-called red giants had strong magnetic fields. Since their sample collection was immense, they researchers concluded that strong magnetic fields are quite common among stars with masses 1.5-2.0 times the sun.

The researchers used a new technique known asteroseismology, which enabled them to 'pierce through the surface' of a star. This enables them see the presence of a strong magnetic field near the stellar core that holds the main engine of the star's nuclear burning. Strong magnetic fields can change the physical process in core, which can impact how stars grow old.

"Their interior is essentially ringing like a bell," Stello said. "And like a bell, or a musical instrument, the sound they produce can reveal their physical properties."

The findings of the study could enable researchers to have a better understanding about the formation of magnetic fields along and how they evolve inside stars.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature.

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