Saturday, November 26, 2022

Scientists have discovered a new way to explore alien worlds beyond our solar system

We have discovered thousands of exoplanets in recent years. Most have been discovered by the transit method, where an optical telescope measures the brightness of a star over time. If the star is very low in brightness, it may indicate that a planet has passed in front of it, blocking some of the light.

The transit method is a powerful tool, but it has limitations. Not the least of which is that the planet must pass between us and its star in order for us to detect it. The transit method also depends on optical telescopes.

But a new method could allow astronomers to detect exoplanets using radio telescopes.

It is not easy to observe exoplanets at radio wavelengths. Most planets don’t emit much radio light, and most stars do. Radio light from stars can also be quite variable due to things like stellar flames.

But large gas planets like Jupiter can be radio bright. Not from the planet itself, but from its strong magnetic field. Charged particles from the stellar wind interact with the magnetic field and emit radio light.

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Jupiter is so bright in radio light that you can detect it with a homemade radio telescope, and astronomers have detected radio signals from several brown dwarfs.

Color Images Showing Jupiter In Radio Waves
This radio image of Jupiter was captured by the Very Large Array in New Mexico. The three colors in the picture correspond to three different radio wavelengths: 2 cm in blue, 3 cm in gold, and 6 cm in red. (Imke de Pater; Michael H. Wong, UC Berkeley; Robert J. Salt, University of Melbourne)

But there has not been a clear radio signal from a Jupiter-like planet orbiting another star.

In this new study, the team looked at what such a signal could be like.

They based their model on magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), which describes how magnetic fields and ionized gases interact, and applied it to a planetary system known as HD 189733, which is known to be a planet the size of Jupiter. Known for

They simulated how the star’s stellar wind interacted with the planet’s magnetic field and calculated what the planet’s radio signal would be.

He found many interesting things.

Black And White Synthetic Radio Waves
A sample of the synthetic radio images produced by this new model. (Soumitra Hazra et al., arXiv, 2022)

For one, the team showed that the planet would produce a clear light curve. It is a radio signal that changes due to the motion of the planet. This is great because radio observations of motion are extremely accurate. Even more accurate than optical Doppler observations.

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They also found that radio observations could detect the transit of a planet passing in front of its star. The radio signal will have distinctive features that show how the planet’s magnetosphere passes in front of the star. So astronomers could better understand the strength and shape of the planet’s magnetosphere.

Both of these signals will be very faint, so a new generation of radio telescopes will be needed to see them.

But if we can detect them, planetary radio signals will give us accurate orbital measurements of at least one planet in the system and help us understand the structure and interior of exoplanets.

Together these will be a major leap forward in our understanding of exoplanetary systems.

Reference: Soumitra Hazra, et al. ,Exoplanet transits as a probe for radio exoplanetary magnetic fields – time-dependent MHD simulations, arXiv Preprint arXiv:2208.06006 (2022).

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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