News Stories

Star Cycles

Our sun isn't the only star that flares up into sunspots every 11 years. In a bid to unlock longstanding mysteries of the Sun, including the impacts on Earth of its 11-year cycle, an international team of scientists has successfully probed a distant star and found that it ALSO has an 11-year cycle.

The scientists studied a star known as HD49933, which is located 100 light years from Earth in the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn, just east of Orion. When they examined the star's acoustic fluctuations (sounds), they detected the signature of "starspots," areas of intense magnetic activity on the surface that are similar to sunspots.

Astronomer Travis Metcalfe says, "Essentially, the star is ringing like a bell. As it moves through its starspot cycle, the tone and volume of the ringing changes in a very specific pattern, moving to higher tones with lower volume at the peak of its magnetic cycle."

Does an 11 year sun cycle somehow lead to the evolution of life on one (or more) of its orbiting planets? If so, this would be a new way to search for life in the universe (unless we just want to wait for them to come to us).

Astronomer Savita Mathur says, "We've discovered a magnetic activity cycle in this star, similar to what we see with the Sun. This technique of listening to the stars will allow us to examine potentially hundreds of stars."

And when we DO discover other forms of intelligent life in the future, let's hope they're friendly (which they're more likely to be, if we don't shoot first)!

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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