Alien Auroras May Light Up Exoplanet Night Skies - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Alien Auroras May Light Up Exoplanet Night Skies

Posted: Updated:

YAHOO.COM - Scientists have kept a close watch on the dazzling northern lights on Earth and other planets in our solar system, but now they have the chance to explore the auroras of alien planets orbiting distant stars, a new study suggests.

Auroras on Earth occur when charged particles from the sun are funneled to the planet's poles and interact with the upper atmosphere, sparking spectacular light shows. Similar processes have been observed on other planets in the solar system, with Jupiter's auroras more than 100 times brighter than those on Earth, scientists said.

Now, scientists are finding evidence of aurora displays on exoplanets for the first time. Researchers used the Low-Frequency Array radio telescope based in The Netherlands to observe radio emissions most likely caused by powerful auroras from planets outside of our solar system.

"These results strongly suggest that auroras do occur on bodies outside our solar system, and the auroral radio emissions are powerful enough — 100,000 times brighter than Jupiter's — to be detectable across interstellar distances," study lead author Jonathan Nichols, of the University of Leicester in England, said in a statement.

Jupiter's auroras are caused by an interaction of charged particles shot from its volcanic moon, Ibo and the rotation of the planet itself. The gas giant turns on its axis once every 10 hours, dragging its magnetic field along for the ride, and effectively creating a whirl of electricity at each of the planet's poles.

Auroras akin to Earth's have been spotted on Saturn. But these newest findings show that auroras on exoplanets probably aren't formed from charged particles traveling on the solar wind. Instead, the auroras on the dim, "ultracool dwarf" stars and "failed stars" known as brown dwarfs that Nichols studied probably behave more like Jupiter's northern and southern lights.

By studying these radio emissions, scientists will gain more insight into the strength of a planet's magnetic field, how it interacts with its parent star, whether it has any moons and even the length of its day.

The new research is detailed in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS JUST IN: Devastation from Carlton Complex fire

    PHOTOS JUST IN: Devastation from Carlton Complex fire

    Friday, July 25 2014 1:11 PM EDT2014-07-25 17:11:57 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Photographer, Sy Stepanov gave us permission to share these devastating photos of the destruction caused by the Carlton Complex fire. This fire has burned over 250,000 acres becoming the largest wildfire in Washington state history. Over 150 homes have been destroyed by the fire which started on July 14th.>>
    KHQ.COM - Photographer, Sy Stepanov gave us permission to share these devastating photos of the destruction caused by the Carlton Complex fire. This fire has burned over 250,000 acres becoming the largest wildfire in Washington state history. Over 150 homes have been destroyed by the fire which started on July 14th.>>
  • 44 Riverside homes destroyed or damaged in storm

    44 Riverside homes destroyed or damaged in storm

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:46:53 GMT
    RIVERSIDE, Wash. - Many families were still at the Red Cross Shelter set up at Riverside High School in Riverside this morning.An afternoon storm destroyed or damaged 44 of their homes and knocked down close to 100 trees in Riverside Village Mobile Home Park.Many residents said the storm looked like a tornado as it swept through their neighborhood.>>
    RIVERSIDE, Wash. - Many families were still at the Red Cross Shelter set up at Riverside High School in Riverside this morning.An afternoon storm destroyed or damaged 44 of their homes and knocked down close to 100 trees in Riverside Village Mobile Home Park.Many residents said the storm looked like a tornado as it swept through their neighborhood.>>
  • Boil-water advisories issued in several eastern Washington areas after storms

    Boil-water advisories issued in several eastern Washington areas after storms

    Friday, July 25 2014 5:45 AM EDT2014-07-25 09:45:06 GMT
    SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Health believes some local water systems are at risk after severe storms moved through the area on Wednesday and they have issued some boil-water advisories. >>
    SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Health believes some local water systems are at risk after severe storms moved through the area on Wednesday and they have issued some boil-water advisories. In Spokane and Pend Oreille counties, several water systems are under boil-water advisories:ยท>>