Scientists have detected radio bursts emanating from a planet orbiting a star far beyond our sun for the first time, Cornell University astronomers say.
The astronomers behind the new research, published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, used a radio telescope in the Netherlands to study three different stars known to host exoplanets, Space.com reported.
Then they compared what they saw to observations of Jupiter, diluted as if being seen from a star system dozens of light-years away. And one star system stood out: Tau Boötes, which contains at least one exoplanet.
The researchers hope if their detection holds up, it could open the door to better understanding the magnetic fields of exoplanets and the exoplanets themselves.
"We present one of the first hints of detecting an exoplanet in the radio realm," Jake Turner, an astronomer at Cornell University and lead author of the new research, told the Cornell Chronicle.
“The signal is from the Tau Boötes system, which contains a binary star and an exoplanet. We make the case for an emission by the planet itself. From the strength and polarization of the radio signal and the planet’s magnetic field, it is compatible with theoretical predictions.”
The researchers called for additional observations of the system, which is about 51 light-years away from Earth.
“If confirmed through follow-up observations, this radio detection opens up a new window on exoplanets, giving us a novel way to examine alien worlds that are tens of light-years away,” co-author and Cornell professor of astronomy Ray Jayawardhana told the Cornell Chronicle.
Turner added the exoplanet is intriguing in another way as well — offering the possibility it’s habitable.
“The magnetic field of Earth-like exoplanets may contribute to their possible habitability by shielding their own atmospheres from solar wind and cosmic rays, and protecting the planet from atmospheric loss,” he told the Cornell Chronicle.
The signature, though, is weak, Turner said, and that’s why “the need for follow-up observations is critical.”
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