Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Magnetic field on bright star Vega

25.06.2009
Astronomy & Astrophysics publishes the first detection of a magnetic field on the bright star Vega. Using the NARVAL spectropolarimeter of the Bernard-Lyot telescope on top of the Pic du Midi (France), astronomers clearly observe the magnetically-induced effect in the spectrum of Vega, thereby showing that the star possesses a magnetic field, something unknown so far.

Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing the first detection of a magnetic field on the star Vega, one of the brightest stars in the sky. Using the high-sensitivity NARVAL spectropolarimeter installed at the Bernard-Lyot telescope (Pic du Midi Observatory, France), a team of astronomers [1] detected the effect of a magnetic field (known as the Zeeman effect) in the light emitted by Vega.

Vega is a famous star among amateur and professional astronomers. Located at only 25 light years from Earth in the Lyra constellation, it is the fifth brightest star in the sky. It has been used as a reference star for brightness comparisons. Vega is twice as massive as the Sun and has only one tenth its age. Because it is both bright and nearby, Vega has been often studied but it is still revealing new aspects when it is observed with more powerful instruments. Vega rotates in less than a day, while the Sun's rotation period is 27 days. The intense centrifugal force induced by this rapid rotation flattens its poles and generates temperature variations of more than 1000 degrees Celsius between the polar (warmer) and the equatorial regions of its surface. Vega is also surrounded by a disk of dust, in which the inhomogeneities suggest the presence of planets.

This time, astronomers analyzed the polarization of light emitted by Vega [2] and detected a weak magnetic field at its surface. This is really not a big surprise because one knows that the charged particle motions inside stars can generate magnetic fields, and this is how solar and terrestrial magnetic fields are produced. However, for more massive stars than the Sun, such as Vega, theoretical models cannot predict the intensity and the structure of the magnetic field, so that astronomers had no clue to the strength of the signal they were looking for. After many unsuccessful attempts in past decades, both the high sensitivity of NARVAL and the full dedication of an observing campaign to Vega have made this first detection possible.

The strength of Vega magnetic field is about 50 micro-tesla, which is close to that of the mean field on Earth and on the Sun. This first observational constraint opens the way to in-depth theoretical studies about the origin of magnetic fields in massive stars. This detection also suggests that magnetic fields exist but have not been detected yet on many stars like Vega, but farther and more difficult to observe. Astronomers believe that this discovery will be a key step in understanding stellar magnetic fields and their influence on stellar evolution. As for Vega, it is now the prototype of a new class of magnetic stars and will definitely continue fascinating astronomers for years.

[1] The team includes F. Lignières, P. Petit, T. Böhm, and M. Aurière (Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Toulouse-Tarbes, CNRS/Université de Toulouse, France).

[2] Radiation is not only characterized by its wavelength and its intensity, but also by its polarization state. The polarization state of waves, including light waves, describes the orientation of their vibrations. A light wave can either be non-polarized, linearly or circularly polarized depending on the orientation of the electric field as the wave travels. In particular, the polarization state of radiation gives information about the presence of a magnetic field in the medium where the radiation was emitted. Hence, polarization data allow astronomers to study stellar magnetic fields.

First evidence of a magnetic field on Vega. Towards a new class of magnetic A-type stars, by F. Lignières, P. Petit, T. Böhm, and M. Aurière.

To be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2009, vol. 500-3
Full article available in PDF format
A French press release from SRON is available at http://www.insu.cnrs.fr/
Contacts:
Science:
Dr. François Lignières
Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, France
Email: ligniere (at) ast.obs-mip.fr
Phone: +33 (0)5 61 33 28 98
Dr. Pascal Petit
Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, France
Email: pascal.petit (at) ast.obs-mip.fr
Phone: +33 (0)5 61 33 28 28
Dr. Törsten Böhm
Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, France
Email: boehm (at) obs-mip.fr
Phone: +33 (0)5 61 33 28 32
Press office:
Dr. Jennifer Martin
Astronomy & Astrophysics
61, avenue de l'Observatoire
75014 Paris, France
Email: aanda.paris (at) obspm.fr
Phone: +33 1 43 29 05 41

Dr. Jennifer Martin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.insu.cnrs.fr/
http://www.obspm.fr

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors
20.07.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information
19.07.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>