Cornell scientists find radio signal coming from an extrasolar planet

Signal amplification

A team of scientists from Cornell University has discovered what they believe is the first radio signature emitted from a planet outside our solar system.

Knowing what that sounds like, let’s be clear: they probably aren’t aliens. Scheduled for publication in the journal, according to research Astronomy and Astrophysics, picking up radio signatures from an exoplanet is a valuable tool for scientists who want to know if that world could possibly support life.

Magnetic Interference

The exoplanet in question is a “hot Jupiter” exoplanet that orbits very close to its star in the constellation of Boötes. The Cornell scientists behind the study say they should follow up with their investigation to confirm that this is the source of the radio signal they picked up using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), a radio telescope in the Netherlands. But if they are right, radio signals from exoplanets can reveal whether those worlds have magnetospheres like the one protecting Earth.

“If confirmed by follow-up observations,” Cornell astronomer Ray Jayawardhana said in a press release, “this radio detection opens a new window on exoplanets, giving us a new way to explore alien worlds tens of light years away.”

Shields, Engage!

Earth’s magnetic field protects the planet from dangerous cosmic rays, but picking up radio signals given off by the world’s magnetic field does not guarantee it will be habitable like Earth. In contrast, the scientists learned to detect Jupiter’s hot signal by studying the actual planet Jupiter.

“We learned what this kind of detection looks like from our own Jupiter,” said lead author Jake Turner in the release. “We went looking for it and we found it.”

READ MORE: Astronomers detect possible radio emissions from exoplanet [Cornell University]

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