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Even ‘Goldilocks’ Exoplanets Need a Well-behaved Star

6 Nov 2019, 20:46 UTC
Even ‘Goldilocks’ Exoplanets Need a Well-behaved Star
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An exoplanet may seem like the perfect spot to set up housekeeping, but before you go there, take a closer look at its star. Rice University astrophysicists are doing just that, building a computer model to help judge how a star's own atmosphere impacts its planets, for better or worse.By narrowing the conditions for habitability, they hope to refine the search for potentially habitable planets. Astronomers now suspect that most of the billions of stars in the sky have at least one planet. To date, Earth-bound observers have spotted nearly 4,000 of them.Lead author and Rice graduate student Alison Farrish and her research adviser, solar physicist David Alexander, led their group's first study to characterize the "space weather" environment of stars other than our own to see how it would affect the magnetic activity around an exoplanet. It's the first step in a National Science Foundation-funded project to explore the magnetic fields around the planets themselves."It's impossible with current technology to determine whether an exoplanet has a protective magnetic field or not, so this paper focuses on what is known as the asterospheric magnetic field," Farrish said. "This is the interplanetary extension of the stellar magnetic field with which the ...

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