A team of ALMA scientists has discovered a dim, cool dwarf star that they believe is more magnetically powerful than our own sun.
Researchers working with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, or ALMA telescope, have made a shocking discovery. According to a report from Phys.org, a team has located a dim, cool dwarf star with a magnetic field that rivals that of our own sun.
Unlike our sun though, the newly discovered star is covered in massive solar eruptions that send bursts of magnetism shooting out into space. The flares create tightly wound magnetic fields around the circumference of the sun, creating a natural particle accelerator by changing the path of electrons and making them emit radio signals, which were picked up by the ALMA team.
Scientists posit that this radiation can make its way all the way to other planets, which would pose some serious problems for the technology we use here on Earth. For one, we could forget about satellites if we lived near a star like this; the magnetism would interfere with any signals our satellites are capable of transmitting.
According to the study’s head author, Peter Williams of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “It might be extremely difficult for life to evolve at all in such a stormy environment.”
The research team used the ALMA telescope to examine the well-known star TVLM 513-46646, a red dwarf situated roughly 35 light years from Earth in the nearby constellation, Bootes.
While it only has roughly 10 percent of the sun’s mass and is much cooler, its magnetic properties are much more intense. The star is rapidly spinning, rotating a full turn in just two hours. By contrast, it takes our sun roughly 25 days to spin once around its equator.
The sun emits radio signals at a wavelength of roughly 3 millimeters, or at a frequency of 95 GHz. These signals are produced by a process called synchrotron emission, where electrons travel around powerful magnetic fields. The stronger the magnetism, the more rigid their paths are.
A press release from ALMA outlining the details of the study can be found here.