In a major discovery, scientists received radio signals from distant planets outside our solar system.
The Dutch Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), the world’s most powerful radio antenna, received this signal. According to scientists, distant stars have been sending radio signals suggesting the presence of hidden planets around them.
Dr Benjamin Pope from the University of Queensland and his colleagues at the Dutch national observatory ASTRON spotted this radio signal. According to reports, signals from 19 distant red dwarfs were spotted. Four of them indicated the presence of planets orbiting them.
The astronomers have been searching for planets using LOFAR.
“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,” the team of astronomers said.
The team also said the new technique can prove to be significant for radio astronomy and may lead to the discovery of planets throughout the galaxy.
The new technique also hints at the possibility of life in the system, which remains the biggest question in astronomy — Are we alone? In a study published in Nature Astronomy, the team is confident these signals are coming from the magnetic connection of the stars and unseen orbiting planets, similar to the interaction between Jupiter and its moon, Io.
Dr Joseph Callingham at Leiden University, ASTRON and lead author of the discovery said, “Our own Earth has auroras, commonly recognised here as the northern and southern lights, that also emit powerful radio waves this is from the interaction of the planet’s magnetic field with the solar wind.”
Earlier, astronomers were only able to detect the very nearest stars in steady radio emission while everything else in the radio sky was interstellar gas or black holes. Radio astronomers are now able to see plain old stars when they make their observations as the team focussed on red dwarf stars, which are much smaller than the Sun and known to have an intense magnetic activity that drives stellar flares and radio emission.