Paper on stellar winds blowing around our nearest exoplanet neighbour ?>

Paper on stellar winds blowing around our nearest exoplanet neighbour

A recent work led by our Schwarzschild-Fellow Dr. Julián Alvarado-Gómez shows through numerical simulations that our nearest exoplanetary neighbour experiences a space weather environment similar to our own Earth. The planet is Proxima Centauri c, a planet a few times the size of the Earth, which orbits our nearest stellar neighbour Proxima Centauri in a roughly 5-year orbit.

Simulated stellar wind enviroment of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri c during a magnetic activity minimum of its host star, from Alvarado-Gómez et al. (2020).

From the abstract:

A new planet has been recently discovered around Proxima Centauri. With an orbital separation of ∼1.44 au and a minimum mass of about 7M , Proxima c is a prime direct imaging target for atmospheric characterization. The latter can only be performed with a good understanding of the space environment of the planet, as multiple processes can have profound effects on the atmospheric structure and evolution. Here, we take one step in this direction by generating physically realistic numerical simulations of Proxima’s stellar wind, coupled to a magnetosphere and ionosphere model around Proxima c. We evaluate their expected variation due to the magnetic cycle of the host star, as well as for plausible inclination angles for the exoplanet orbit. Our results indicate stellar wind dynamic pressures comparable to present-day Earth, with a slight increase (by a factor of 2) during high-activity periods of the star. A relatively weak interplanetary magnetic field at the distance of Proxima c leads to negligible stellar wind Joule heating of the upper atmosphere (about 10% of the solar wind contribution on Earth) for an Earth-like planetary magnetic field (0.3 G). Finally, we provide an assessment of the likely extreme conditions experienced by the exoplanet candidate Proxima d, tentatively located at 0.029 au with a minimum mass of 0.29 M.

“An Earth-like Stellar Wind Environment for Proxima Centauri c”, Alvarado-Gómez, Julián D.; Drake, Jeremy J.; Garraffo, Cecilia; Cohen, Ofer; Poppenhaeger, Katja; Yadav, Rakesh K.; Moschou, Sofia P., The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 902, Issue 1, id.L9, 7 pp. (2020).

Also featured in a Science Update by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.



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