Space Weather & Heliophysics

Impact of Changing Stellar and Planetary Magnetic Fields on (Exo)planetary Environments and Atmospheric Mass Loss

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
March 8, 2023
Filed under , , , ,
Impact of Changing Stellar and Planetary Magnetic Fields on (Exo)planetary Environments and Atmospheric Mass Loss
Steady-state magnetospheric configuration of an (exo)planet with Bp = 0.1Be and Bsw = 50 nT. The white surface encloses regions where Mach number MA < 0.3. Pink and yellow streamlines represent magnetic field lines originating from the planet and pure stellar wind respectively. -- astro-ph.EP

The magnetic activity of a star — which modulates the stellar wind outflow — shapes the immediate environments of orbiting planets and induces atmospheric loss thereby impacting their habitability.

We perform a detailed parameter space study using three dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations to understand the effect of changing stellar wind magnetic field and planetary magnetic field strengths on planetary magnetospheric topology and atmospheric losses.

It is observed that the relative strengths of stellar and planetary magnetic fields play a significant role in determining the steady state magnetospheric configuration and atmospheric erosion. When the stellar field is strengthened or the planetary field is weakened, stellar magnetic field accumulation occurs at the day-side of the planet which forces the magnetopause to shift closer to its surface.

The magnetotail opens up leading to the formation of Alfvén wings in the night-side wake region. We demonstrate how reconnection processes and wind conditions lead to the bifurcation of the magnetotail current sheet. With increasing stellar wind magnetic field strength, the day-side reconnection point approaches the planet thereby enhancing mass loss. We establish an analytic equation which successfully captures the modeled mass-loss rate variations of planets with changing magnetic field strengths.

Our results are relevant for understanding how the interplay of stellar and planetary magnetism influence (exo)planetary environments and their habitability in star-planet systems with differing relative magnetic field strengths, or in a single star-planet system over the course of their evolution with age.

Sakshi Gupta, Arnab Basak, Dibyendu Nandy

Comments: Submitted
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Space Physics (
Cite as: arXiv:2303.04770 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2303.04770v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sakshi Gupta
[v1] Wed, 8 Mar 2023 18:09:18 UTC (11,230 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻