Epsilon Lupi Magnetic Field: Incredible Stellar Mystery Fascinates Researchers

An incredible discovery was made by a Ph.D candidate and the find has fascinated researchers across the globe. Matt Shultz, a Ph.D student at Queen’s University in Ontario (Canada), and his team of researchers have identified the presence of magnetic fields in the components of the binary star Epsilon Lupi, the fourth brightest star in the constellation of Lupus, which is located in the Southern Hemisphere. According to Sci-News, the stars — which orbit around each other —are located at a distance of about 500 light years from Earth, each have a mass between seven and eight times that of our Sun and, together, have a luminosity 6,000 times greater.

Regarding the stellar mystery, Shultz gave the following statement.

“The origin of magnetism amongst massive stars is something of a mystery and this discovery may help to shed some light on the question of why these stars have magnetic fields. This discovery allows us to rule out the binary merger scenario. We’re not sure why yet, but it probably points to something significant about how the stars are interacting with one another.”

The discovery was made ​​thanks to the observations of the telescope Canada-France-Hawaii — which were conducted as part of the research activities of the consortium BinaMIcS (Binarity and Magnetic Interactions in various classes of Stars) and coordinated by Dr. Evelyne Alecian of France’s University of Grenoble — with the objective of studying the magnetic properties in close binary star systems.

As explained in a report from Science Daily, in stars with a relatively low surface temperature, such as the Sun, magnetic fields are generated by a convection in the outer portion of the star. The convective motions that develop inside the star support it, and the hotter material rises to the surface while the colder air falls to the deepest areas. In massive stars, the convective motions are substantially absent and consequently there is no support for a magnetic dynamo. Therefore, there must be some other mechanism responsible for the Epsilon Lupi magnetic field.

Astronomers argue two possible explanations for the Epsilon Lupi magnetic field, and both are linked to the concept of a “fossil magnetic field,” which are interstellar magnetic fields that became locked into certain stars. The first hypothesis suggests that the magnetic field emerged during the early stages of the formation of the star. The second suggests that the magnetic field has been produced by the dynamo effect during a violent mixing of stellar material which occurred as a result of a merger of two stars.

The study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, indicates that the intensity of the magnetic fields in the two stars are similar, but their magnetic axes are anti-aligned with the south magnetic pole of a star that points in the same direction as the north pole of the other, leaving open the possibility that the two stars share a single global magnetic field. The results also indicate that the stars are close enough because their magnetospheres can interact during the orbital motion.

[Image via Pool/Getty Images News]

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