Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New evidence indicates auroras occur outside our solar system

Date:
January 21, 2013
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
Planetary scientists have found new evidence suggesting auroras – similar to Earth’s Aurora Borealis - occur on bodies outside our solar system.

Aurora crowns Jupiter's north pole.
Credit: NASA/ESA, John Clarke (University of Michigan)

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 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.”

Dr Nichols’ work was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The LOFAR exoplanets work is led by Philippe Zarka, based at CNRS Observatory, Paris.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. D. Nichols, M. R. Burleigh, S. L. Casewell, S. W. H. Cowley, G. A. Wynn, J. T. Clarke, A. A. West. Origin of Electron Cyclotron Maser Induced Radio Emissions at Ultracool Dwarfs: Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling Currents. The Astrophysical Journal, 2012; 760 (1): 59 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/760/1/59

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "New evidence indicates auroras occur outside our solar system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130121083253.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2013, January 21). New evidence indicates auroras occur outside our solar system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130121083253.htm
University of Leicester. "New evidence indicates auroras occur outside our solar system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130121083253.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins