Radio signals from distant stars suggest hidden planets


Scientists have discovered stars that unexpectedly emit radio waves, possibly indicating the existence of hidden planets.

Dr Benjamin Pope from the University of Queensland and his colleagues at the Dutch national observatory ASTRON searched for planets using the world’s most powerful Low Frequency Radio Telescope (LOFAR) located in the Netherlands. The study was published in Nature Astronomy.

“We found signals from 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which are best explained by the existence of planets orbiting them,” said Dr Pope.

“We have known for a long time that the planets in our own solar system emit powerful radio waves when their magnetic fields interact with the solar wind, but radio signals from planets outside our solar system had not yet been picked up.

“This discovery is an important step for radio astronomy and could potentially lead to the discovery of planets throughout the galaxy.”

Previously, astronomers could only detect the closest stars in constant radio emission, and everything else in the radio sky was interstellar or exotic gas like black holes.

Now radio astronomers are able to see old stars when they make their observations, and with this information we can search for all the planets surrounding those stars.

The team focused on red dwarf stars, which are much smaller than the Sun and known to have intense magnetic activity that results in stellar flares and radio emissions.

But old magnetically inactive stars have also appeared, challenging conventional understanding.

Dr Joseph Callingham of the University of Leiden and ASTRON and lead author of the discovery said the team is convinced these signals originate from the magnetic connection of invisible orbiting stars and planets, similar to the interaction between Jupiter and its moon, Io.

“Our own Earth has auroras, commonly recognized here as the Northern and Southern Lights, which also emit powerful radio waves – this comes from the interaction of the planet’s magnetic field with the solar wind,” he said. .

“But in the case of Jupiter’s auroras, they are much stronger because its volcanic moon Io projects matter into space, filling Jupiter’s environment with particles that result in exceptionally powerful auroras.

“Our model for this radio show of our stars is a magnified version of Jupiter and Io, with a planet enveloped in a star’s magnetic field, feeding matter in vast currents that also feed bright auroras.

“It’s a sight that has caught our attention light years away.”

The research team now wanted to confirm that the proposed planets do exist.

“We cannot be 100% sure that the four stars that we think planets have are indeed host planets, but we can say that a planet-star interaction is the best explanation for what we are seeing,” said Dr Pope.

“Follow-up observations have ruled out planets more massive than Earth, but there is nothing to say that a smaller planet wouldn’t.”

Discoveries with LOFAR are just the beginning, but the telescope only has the ability to monitor relatively nearby stars, up to 165 light years away.

With Australia and South Africa’s Square Kilometer Array radio telescope finally under construction, which will hopefully light up in 2029, the team predicts it will be able to see hundreds of relevant stars at far distances. bigger.

(With entries from ANI)

Disclaimer: This article was posted automatically from an agency feed without any text changes and has not been reviewed by an editor

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