University of Leicester planetary scientists have found new evidence suggesting auroras – similar to Earth's Aurora Borealis - occur on bodies outside our solar system.
Auroras occur on several planets within our solar system, and the brightest - on Jupiter – are 100 times brighter than those on Earth. However, no auroras have yet been observed beyond Neptune.
A new study led by University of Leicester lecturer Dr Jonathan Nichols has shown that processes strikingly similar to those which power Jupiter's auroras could be responsible for radio emissions detected from a number of objects outside our solar system.
In addition, the radio emissions are powerful enough to be detectable across interstellar distances – meaning that auroras could provide an effective way of observing new objects outside our solar system.
Auroras occur when charged particles in an object's magnetosphere collide with atoms in its upper atmosphere, causing them to glow. However, before hitting the atmosphere, these particles also emit radio waves into space.
The study, Origin of Electron Cyclotron Maser Induced Radio Emissions at Ultracool Dwarfs: Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling Currents, which recently appeared in the Astrophysical Journal, shows that this phenomenon is not limited to our solar system.
It shows that the radio emissions from a number of ultracool dwarfs may be caused in a very similar, but significantly more powerful, way to Jupiter's auroras.
Dr Nichols, a Lecturer and Research Fellow in the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: "We have recently shown that beefed-up versions of the auroral processes on Jupiter are able to account for the radio emissions observed from certain "ultracool dwarfs" - bodies which comprise the very lowest mass stars - and "brown dwarfs" - 'failed stars' which lie in between planets and stars in terms of mass.
"These results strongly suggest that auroras do occur on bodies outside our solar system, and the auroral radio emissions are powerful enough - one hundred thousand times brighter than Jupiter's - to be detectable across interstellar distances."
The paper, which also involved researchers at the Center for Space Physics, Boston University, USA, could have major implications for the detection of planets and objects outside our solar system which could not be discovered with other methods.
What's more, the radio emission could provide us with key information about the length of the planet's day, the strength of its magnetic field, how the planet interacts with its parent star and even whether it has any moons.
Dr Nichols added: "I am part of a group who have recently been awarded time on the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) - centred in the Netherlands but with stations across a number of countries in northern Europe including the UK - to try to observe auroras on exoplanets, so hopefully there will be some interesting results soon."
The full paper can be found at: http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/760/1/59
University of Leicester: http://www.leicester.ac.uk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which began orbiting the Red Planet on Sept. 23, has already sent back a stunning new portrait of Mars. The image taken Sept. 28 shows the beginnings of a dust storm on the surface of the planet and was taken by the Mars Color Camera aboard the spacecraft. The Mars…
Rectangular rift valleys below Oceanus Procellarum challenge giant impact theory
Something strange is happening on the cloud-shrouded world known as Titan—and a NASA orbiter is trying to figure it out
Timelapse video filmed by an astronaut shows the view from the International Space Station as it circles the Earth completely over 90 minutes. Each orbit the station moves around 1,367 miles to the west in relation to 90 minutes before. During this period, astronaut Alexander Gerst passes from daytime to nighttime and back again, capturing spectacular images of the northern lights
India's space agency releases its first pictures of Mars as its satellite begins work a day after entering orbit around the Red Planet.
The smallest exoplanet yet to have its atmosphere probed is full of water and heavy elements, hinting it formed far from its star
One giant leap for mankind, again
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Privately owned SpaceX started construction in south Texas on Monday for what the company said will be the first private commercial orbital launch facility in the world.
SpaceX Dragon arrives at space station with 1st 3-D printer for astronauts, other supplies
India's Mars Orbiter Mission is set to reach Mars on Wednesday, just days after a U.S. NASA probe began its orbit around the Red Planet. The difference? India did it on a much tighter budget.