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April 18, 2011

Astronomers Can Tune in to Radio Auroras to Find Exoplanets

A new way of finding exoplanets may have been discovered. Scientists at the University of Leicester have shown that emissions from the radio aura of planets that are similar to Jupiter and Saturn should be detectable by radio telescopes, allowing astronomers detect the planet. This new method looks for radio waves associated with auroras generated by interactions with ionised gas escaping from the volcanic moons and may be able to detect planets that are similar to the Jupiter and Saturn like systems. The radio waves could be detected by radio telescopes, such as LOFAR, which is currently being built and will be completed later this year. Most of the extrasolar planets that have been found to date are large and orbit close to their star. This is because the transit and Doppler shift detection methods work well for planets that orbit close to their star. However, this new method could detect planets that orbit as far out as Pluto. I think this is a very interesting new method for looking for exoplanets, because it would allow scientists to find planets that are further out, greatly increasing the amount of exoplanets found.

Posted by emschnei at April 18, 2011 04:47 PM


This seems like a really efficient way to find exoplanets, opposed to using telescopes that have to be in space. It sounds like a really smart way to go about it too because large jupiter-like planets, especially "hot jupiters" with a lot of convection ought to produce massive magnetospheres with equally large auroras. This method might also let us detect smaller planets like earth if they have a large enough magnetosphere and atmosphere to create noticeable auroras.

Posted by: rborden at April 19, 2011 04:16 PM

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