The scientists will build new stellar models to better understand the physical processes in stars. (Illustration: ESA)

DTU scientist use new grant to dwell into magnetic fields in stars

Senior researcher and astrophysicist Victoria Antoci at DTU, the Technical University of Denmark, has been awarded a DKK 15 million ERC Consolidator Grant, for her project called MAGNIFY. This project seeks to unravel the mysteries of magnetic fields in stars slightly more massive than the Sun.

With the attractive grant, basic research in astrophysics at DTU will be strengthened, and Victoria Antoci can go further in-depth in her fields of specialization for the next five years.

Magnetic fields, ubiquitous in stars, galaxies, and planets, are vital for life on Earth, shielding us from solar radiation. Yet, their origins, strengths, and geometries remain largely unknown.

Gaining more knowledge about stellar magnetic fields is a big motivation for Victoria Antoci in her scientific career.

“While only about 10 percent of stars with nearly twice the mass of the Sun exhibit detectable magnetic fields, a staggering 60 percent of red giants, their evolutionary successors, display strong internal fields. This intriguing discrepancy drives the core questions of the MAGNIFY-project,“ she says.

MAGNIFY is the abbreviation for ‘The Quest for MAGNetIc Fields in A and F TYpe Stars’.

New stellar models will explain the physical processes

Under Antoci's leadership, MAGNIFY will use asteroseismology, studying star vibrations to reveal their internal structures, akin to how seismology examines Earth.

This approach enables scientists to build detailed stellar models and understand the physical processes driving star pulsations. Utilizing data from NASA's Kepler and TESS missions and ESA's Gaia mission, MAGNIFY aims to isolate magnetic field influences in these stars and study stellar spots to understand magnetic field generation and its variation with stellar mass and age.

After earning a master's degree and PhD at the University of Vienna, Victoria came to Denmark for a position as a postdoc and assistant professor at the Stellar Astrophysics Centre at Aarhus University. Here she eventually became a project scientist and manager for Delphini-1, the university's first satellite.

Victoria Antoci joined DTU Space in 2020 with a Villum Experiment to investigate the dynamic interplay between hot stars and exoplanets using nanosatellites.

A space science journey that began in childhood

Antoci's journey to this achievement as an acknowledged astrophysicist began back in her childhood.

“I was inspired by glowing star stickers in my room and had a deep-seated dream of space exploration as a child,” says Victoria Antoci. 

Her passion for astronomy solidified by age 13, despite the fact that she was facing doubts about her academic prospects.

She was influenced by the American science fiction film 'Contact' and the portrayal of Dr. Eleanor Arroway by Jodie Foster. This 1997 drama is based on the novel by Carl Sagan about research in extraterrestrial life based on, among other things, observations by earth-based telescopes.

Reflecting on her journey, Antoci, born in Romania and raised in Austria, emphasizes the importance of role models and diverse perspectives.

“My international upbringing has taught me the value of diversity in perspectives. I encourage people from all cultures and backgrounds to boldly chase their dreams, knowing that their unique viewpoints are invaluable assets in any field,” she says and tries to encourage others to follow their aspirations in their field of interest.