Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Flare Research: Evidence just keeps on comin...

I haven't been working on the research I started last semester this summer (although I intend to get back to it when I really get settled with everything else going on). However, there's other groups out there working on the same issue.

Today a new paper popped up on the pre-print server.

One of the predictions that the original paper we were basing our work off of said that, if planets could induce massive flares, we should see enhanced X-ray activity on stars with close in planets.

This isn't a 100% sign that the planets could induce as massive of flares as the ones we're interested in, but it's one of the necessary conditions that had better be confirmed.

So this group at Harvard took a look at the amount of X-rays coming from 230 stars. And what did they find?
invariably the close-in samples have X-ray luminosities higher than that of the distant sample.
Horay! Prediction verified! Right?

Well, not just yet. Like all good scientists, these guys looked at possible sources or error and bias. And the word on that one?
observational biases account for about half of the observed differences seen in the data.
Eep! Ok. But if half the data isn't helpful, is the other half still good enough?

Yep. And what's more, after some modeling, they found that the enhancement may be be dependent on the simple multiple of the fields (the planet's and the star's). Thus, if we know the magnetic field of the star, we may be able to start probing the magnetic fields of planets for the first time.

Pretty cool.

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