Radio signals detected from distant stars may indicate hidden planets

Radio astronomers have detected radio signals coming from distant stars, indicating that they should have unseen planets orbiting.

@AdamHuntTT
Published Wed, Dec 8 2021 5:30 AM CST   |   Updated Sun, Jan 2 2022 4:13 PM CST

With the most powerful radio antenna on Earth, researchers from the University of Queensland have detected radio signals from distant stars.

Radio signals detected from distant stars may indicate hidden planets 01 | TweakTown.com

Dr. Benjamin Pope of the University of Queensland and colleagues from the Dutch national observatory ASTRON have been using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands to observe radio waves emanating from distant stars. These waves suggest the existence of unknown planets orbiting these stars.

"We've discovered signals from 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which are best explained by the existence of planets orbiting them. We've long known that the planets of 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 yet to be picked up. This discovery is an important step for radio astronomy and could potentially lead to the discovery of planets throughout the galaxy," said Dr. Pope.

Previously, only the nearest stars were detectable by astronomers from their steady radio wave emission. Now, radio emissions can be observed coming from regular stars elsewhere, aiding the search for planets nearby. The research team focused on red dwarf stars, which have intense magnetic activity driving stellar flares and radio wave emission. They observed radio emissions from magnetically inactive stars, and they concluded the signals were coming from magnetic connections between the stars and unseen orbiting planets.

"We can't be 100 percent sure that the four stars we think have planets are indeed planet hosts, but we can say that a planet-star interaction is the best explanation for what we're seeing," Dr. Pope said.

LOFAR can only monitor stars up to 165 light-years away. However, with Australian and South African governments constructing the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, estimated to start operating in 2029, the future of radio astronomy is bright.

The team published papers in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and Nature Astronomy about their work, which you can read here and here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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