Scientists have proposed a new technique for detecting hidden planets in distant star systems.
An international team of astronomers has used the world’s most powerful radio antenna to record mysterious radio waves emanating from distant star systems. These signals may indicate the existence of hidden planets.
Radio waves could help astronomers detect hidden planets
Research team and instruments
Dr. Joseph Callingham of Leiden University led the study with the help of experts from the Dutch national observatory ASTRON. Together with Australian colleagues, they searched for planets using the world’s most powerful Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio telescope. By the way, it is located in the Netherlands and is able to track stars that are relatively close, at a distance of up to 165 light-years.
In total, researchers detected radio waves from 19 red dwarf stars but they know about existing planets near only four. To date, astronomers have not detected radio signals from distant exoplanets and if this research continues and succeeds, it would be a major step forward for radio astronomy.
New instruments allow us to observe distant ancient stars, and the information received about them is usually enough to find the planets around them. Astronomers hope that they will soon be able to detect hidden planets based on the signals captured.
Let us clarify that the red dwarfs, which have become the subject of study, are significantly inferior in their parameters to our Sun. Most of them have intense magnetic activity, which causes stellar flares and powerful radio emissions. However, in four cases, the stars turned out to be so old that their magnetic activity was almost reduced to zero. Despite this, astronomers received signals from their side.
These results have challenged the generally accepted concept of stellar systems. This is how the hypothesis was born that the captured signals come from the magnetic connection of stars and invisible planets.
Examples in the Solar System
In our solar system, for example, a similar magnetic interaction has been recorded between Jupiter and its moon Io. On Earth, for example, the magnetic field interacts with the solar wind and creates auroras that emit radio signals. The same thing happens with the particles emitted from Io which influence the abnormally powerful auroras on the gas giant.
New model for radio waves
Based on knowledge of Jupiter, astronomers have developed a model for the radio waves from distant stars. In fact, they have an enlarged version of the system of interaction between Jupiter and Io. Only instead of a satellite, this model shows a hidden planet, enveloped in the magnetic field of a star. The action of this mechanism is similar to that which causes the aurora. As astronomers say, this spectacle is so bright that it can be clearly seen even at a great distance.
Scientists noted that until they discover those hypothetical planets, they cannot guarantee that they even exist. Yet, this model provides the most logical explanation for the mysterious radio waves.
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• Callingham, J. R., Vedantham, H. K., Shimwell, T. W., Pope, B. J. S., Davis, I. E., Best, P. N., Hardcastle, M. J., Röttgering, H. J. A., Sabater, J., Tasse, C., van Weeren, R. J., Williams, W. L., Zarka, P., de Gasperin, F., & Drabent, A. (2021, October 11). The population of M dwarfs observed at low radio frequencies. Nature News.
• NYU. (2020, February 18). Scientists pioneer new way to study exoplanets.
• ScienceDaily. (2021, October 11). Radio signals from distant stars suggest hidden planets.
• Starr, M. (n.d.). Mysterious radio signals from distant stars suggest the presence of hidden planets. ScienceAlert.
• The University of Queensland. (2021, October 12). Radio signals from distant stars suggest hidden planets. UQ News.