Astronomers were able to detect 4 new planets after they caught radio signals emanating from auroras in their atmospheres.
Auroras can generate not only light, but also radio waves. Astronomers were able to detect 4 new exoplanets for the first time using these radio waves
Auroras occur when a stellar wind – streams of electrons and plasma ejected from a star – crashes into a planet’s magnetosphere. On Earth experiencing aurora borealis can be seen near the north and south poles. The sight of this phenomenon leaves impressions for the rest of your life.
But this pleasant light show is only part of the story. Astronomers know that the collision of the solar wind and magnetic fields also causes bright bursts of radio emission that can be detected far beyond the planet. To an alien observer hundreds of light-years away, Earth’s auroras can look like sudden bright flashes in the radio frequency range.
In a new study, scientists have discovered four entirely new planets within 160 light-years of Earth from the flickering radio flares of auroras in the atmospheres of these planets. If confirmed by future research, these four worlds will be the first planets to be discovered using radio waves. According to scientists, this will open up new possibilities for detecting planets in our galaxy.
Researchers discovered these potential planets somewhat by accident while examining nearby red dwarfs with the LOFAR radio telescope in the Netherlands. Red dwarfs are small and cool stars that are nevertheless considered the most common type of stars in our galaxy. These stars tend to have very strong magnetic fields and can create bursts of energy that are visible across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
But of the 19 red dwarfs discovered by the researchers, four seemed a little out of the ordinary. These strange stars appeared to be very old and magnetically inactive, but they still generated strong radio signals. If these signals were not the result of large magnetic flares, what could have caused them?
Using a mathematical model, the team concluded that the strange radio signals were most likely created by powerful auroras in the atmosphere of as-yet undiscovered planets orbiting old stars. According to the authors of the study, this process is similar to the auroras on Earth, but in their strength they are rather similar to similar processes on Jupiter.
An article about this was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.