- A team of scientists believe it may have detected radio emissions from a distant exoplanet, which would be a first.
- The planet is about 51 light-years away, and although there is still debate as to whether the signal comes from the planet or the binary star it orbits, the data seem to indicate that the planet is “speaking.”
- If confirmed, this could be a huge step towards further examining the exoplanets in our neighborhood in more detail than ever.
Looking into space with optical or infrared telescopes can teach us a lot about what is in the depths of the cosmos, but sometimes it is just as important to listen. In the case of the system called Tau Boötes, it seems that something is sending a radio signal into space, and in what could be a premiere for astronomy, scientists think they know what it is.
In a new paper published in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics, researchers led by Cornell University suggest that the radio signal I hear actually comes from a massive exoplanet hanging next to the binary star that hosts it. If this is confirmed, it will be the first time that scientists will be able to detect a radio signature on an exoplanet and help unblock secrets about other planets outside our solar system.
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The work focuses on the exoplanet about 51 light-years from Earth, but the research was made possible by work that began right here in our solar system. The team first studied Jupiter’s radio broadcasts, helping them paint a picture of the appearance of the radio signal from a similar planet if they saw it from a much greater distance. Using this information, they turned their attention to the Tau Boötes system and found what they were looking for.
“We present to you one of the first indications of the detection of an exoplanet in the radio realm,” said Jake D. Turner, the lead author of the paper, in a statement. “The signal comes from the Tau Boötes system, which contains a binary star and an exoplanet. We support the broadcast by the planet itself. From the strength and polarization of the radio signal and the magnetic field of the planet, it is compatible with theoretical predictions. “
Now, before you go dreaming of an alien race that transmits radio signals into space, it is not at all what these discoveries indicate. The planet’s radio signature is actually a potential byproduct of its magnetic field and the energy of the host star (or, in this case, stars). However, if this radio signature is really proof that the planet has a robust magnetic field, scientists believe that this is a great prerequisite for the search for life, because the Earth’s magnetic field has allowed life to take root here. and protected our atmosphere from degradation by the solar wind.
Further work is needed to confirm the findings, but it is a rather interesting development on its own.