Thanks to the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), the most powerful radio telescope in the world, a team of scientists from the University of Queensland, Australia, discovered 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which are emitting unexpected radio waves. The best explanation for this is that there are “hidden” exoplanets. Although it still needs confirmation, the discovery is of great importance for radio astronomy itself, and could also help in the discovery of other worlds across the galaxy.
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Initially, radio astronomers identified only the stars very close through the radio waves, but now they can see others much older than them and look for possible planets in their orbits. So, for the study, the researchers focused on red dwarfs, stars smaller than the Sun and with magnetic activity that releases these emissions. Joseph Callingham, lead author of the study, believes the signals identified come from the magnetic connection between stars and planets that orbit them.
This interaction is similar to the one that happens between Jupiter and its moon Io. “Our model for this radio emission from the stars is a scaled version of Jupiter and Io, in which a planet is enveloped in a star’s magnetic field and releasing material in vast currents that similarly fuel bright auroras,” they explain. the authors.
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The team still needs to confirm the existence of the proposed planets, and is cautious: “we can’t be entirely sure that the four stars we’ve found do, in fact, have planets orbiting them, but we can say that a planet-star interaction is the best explanation for what we’re seeing” , explained Dr Benjamin Pope, an astrophysicist at the University of Queensland and co-author of the study.
He also highlighted the possibilities offered by Lofar: “We now have a new window in the sky thanks to Lofar’s power and techniques on how to wear polarized glasses. This opens up a realm of possibilities for the future,” he said. So far, they’ve only been able to observe a fraction of the sky with the telescope. When the SKA observatory is operational, they expect hundreds of great discoveries.
The article with the results of the study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Source: EurekAlert, The Guardian
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