Radio signals from distant stars suggest hidden planets

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

New Delhi: Scientists have unexpectedly discovered stars blasting radio waves, possibly indicating the existence of hidden planets.


Dr Benjamin Pope of the University of Queensland and colleagues from the Dutch National Observatory Astron are searching for planets using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), the world’s most powerful radio telescope, based in the Netherlands. The study was published in Nature Astronomy.

“We have discovered signals from 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which best explain the existence of planets,” Dr Pope said.

“We have known for a long time that planets in our own solar system emit powerful radio waves as 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 forward for radio astronomy and could potentially lead to the discovery of planets throughout the Milky Way.”

Previously, astronomers were only able to detect the closest stars in stable radio emission, and everything else in the radio sky was exotica such as interstellar gas or black holes.

Now, radio astronomers are able to see plain old stars when they make their observations, and with that information, we can search for any planets around those stars.

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

But some older, magnetically inactive stars also appeared, challenging conventional understanding.
Dr Joseph Collingham of Leiden University and lead author of the discovery Astron said the team believes these signals are coming from magnetic connections between stars and unseen orbiting planets, similar to the interaction between Jupiter and its moon, Io. Is.

“Our own Earth has aurorae, commonly recognized here as the northern and southern lights, which also emit powerful radio waves—this is from the interaction of the planet’s magnetic field with the solar wind,” he said. .

“But in the case of auroras from Jupiter, they are much stronger because its volcanic moon Io is eroding material into space, filling Jupiter’s environment with particles that drive unusually powerful auroras.

“Our model for this radio emission from our stars is a scaled-up version of Jupiter and Io, in which a planet encapsulated in a star’s magnetic field feeds material into giant streams that emit equally bright aurorae. gives power.

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

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

Dr Pope said, “We can’t be 100 percent sure that the four stars we think are planets are actually planet hosts, but we can say that there is one for what we’re seeing.” Planet-star interaction is the best explanation.”

“Following observations have ruled out more massive planets than Earth, but nothing to say that a minor planet wouldn’t do the same.”

Discoveries with LOFAR are just the beginning, but the telescope has the ability to observe only stars that are relatively close, up to 165 light-years away.

With Australia and South Africa’s Square Kilometer Array radio telescopes nearing the end of construction, hopefully switching in 2029, the team estimates they will be able to see hundreds of relevant stars at much greater distances.

First published:October 18, 2021, 3:47 pm

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