Scientists from Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia have come up with a better way of calculating the magnetic field of the Planet HD 209458b, an exoplanet a little outside of our own solar system. It is hoped that the ability to measure the magnetic fields of this planet will serve as basis to study exoplanets with the aim of determining if life either exists in these outer planet, or could support life.
Compared to that of Earth, the ability to calculate and analyze the shapes and magnet moments of this planet’s magnetosphere, astronomers and computational physicists will be able to determine with accurate certainty if these planets’ atmospheres are able to sustain life. Orbiting a foreign star and studying the fields of an exoplanet is certainly an arduous task, but the strides achieved by scientists in studying magnetic fields from a distance has boosted the confidence of these researchers to achieve their aims.
According to Kristina Kislyakova, the co-author of the study, “We modeled the formation of the cloud of hot hydrogen around the planet and showed that only one configuration, which corresponds to specific values of the magnetic moment and the parameter of the stellar wind, allowed us to reproduce the observations,” and exploring this model is what helped the researchers to pinpoint the exact value of their observations.
Using data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope in the hydrogen Lyman-alpha line at the moment of transit when the planet crossed the stellar disc between it and Earth, the size and composition of gas surrounding the planet was measured. “The planet’s magnetosphere was relatively small being only 2.9 planetary radii corresponding to a magnetic moment of Jupiter” Kislyakova said. “This method can be used for every planet, including Earth-like planets, if there exists an extended high energetic hydrogen envelope around them.”
The Planet HD 209458b, also known as Osiris, is a hot Jupiter-like planet, but its size and mass are only one-third that of Jupiter. It contains hot gas, and researchers explored this to measure its ionization, gravitational effects, pressure, radiation, and spectral line broadening to calculate fairly accurate results for other distant exoplanets.