Stellar Magnetism in Armagh

Astronomers from nearly a dozen countries will gather in Armagh during the final week of July to study the origin and evolution of magnetism in massive stars. This is the fourth annual conference devoted to this subject and the first to be held in Armagh, organized by astronomers Stefano Bagnulo and Jorick Vink of Armagh Observatory, and Canadian astronomer Gregg Wade.

In just the same way that magnets "stick" to our fridges, the magnetic attraction of stars like our Sun forces the gas in its outer layers to follow the lines of force caused by magnetism created deep in the highly convective outer zone of the Sun far below its visible surface.

An important question for astronomers, however, is whether stars much more massive than our Sun, and perhaps millions of times brighter, have equally strong magnetic fields, and the extent to which such magnetic fields affects the evolution of these massive stars. If we can understand the magnetic fields of such stars, we will be able to trace the origin of their magnetism back to the massive interstellar gas clouds from which they form.

In order to help solve these problems an international group of astronomers, including those at Armagh who are hosting this meeting, has been awarded more than 600 hours of observing time on the 4-metre diameter Canadian-French Telescope in Hawaii.

There is currently great interest in every aspect of the evolution of massive stars. They are very different from the more humdrum "solar-type" stars, and sometimes die in huge explosions called supernovae, shining briefly as brightly as a whole galaxy of stars in an outburst that can be visible across the Universe. It is thought that such explosions may sometimes leave behind the so-called "black holes" from which nothing can escape, not even light.

However, the detailed evolution of such stars, in which magnetism is thought to play a crucial role, remains poorly understood. The specialist meeting taking place in Armagh from 26 to 30 July will bring together some of the world's leading experts in this field and lead to new insights and discoveries in this "final frontier" of massive-star research. For full information on the programme, see the workshop web pages.

Armagh Observatory receives core funding from the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Stefano Bagnulo or Jorick Vink at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel.: +44-(0)28-3752-2928; Email: sbaat or jsvat

Last Revised: 2010 July 19th