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>>

  • THROWBACK THURSDAY: Monsters of ROCK Comes To Spokane In 1988!

    THROWBACK THURSDAY: Monsters of ROCK Comes To Spokane In 1988!

    Thursday, April 17 2014 8:00 PM EDT2014-04-18 00:00:41 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Throwback Thursday. 1988. Monsters of Rock. Joe Albi Stadium. Need we say more? One of the biggest rock and roll tours of the year made a stop in Spokane, bringing a number of notable bands including Van Halen, Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Throwback Thursday. 1988. Monsters of Rock. Joe Albi Stadium. Need we say more? One of the biggest rock and roll tours of the year made a stop in Spokane, bringing a number of notable bands including Van Halen, Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.
    >>
  • UPDATE: PHOTOS Of Sex Offenders Who Live In Kootenai County

    UPDATE: PHOTOS Of Sex Offenders Who Live In Kootenai County

    Wednesday, February 26 2014 6:50 AM EST2014-02-26 11:50:17 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Do you know who lives next to you, or in your neighborhood? KHQ has teamed up with local law enforcement agencies to keep you updated on sex offenders that may be living close to you. The latest photos are from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office website. All of the offenders have served their time and are not wanted by authorities.>>
    KHQ.COM - Do you know who lives next to you, or in your neighborhood? KHQ has teamed up with local law enforcement agencies to keep you updated on sex offenders that may be living close to you. The latest photos are from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office website.>>
  • LOOKING FOR A HOME? 10 Homes For Sale In Spokane For $125,000

    LOOKING FOR A HOME? 10 Homes For Sale In Spokane For $125,000

    Thursday, April 17 2014 5:56 PM EDT2014-04-17 21:56:12 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spring is a popular time to purchase and sell a home. Here are 10 homes for sale in Spokane for $125,000. These homes were found on www.WindermereSpokane.com. If you would like more information on any of these homes or would like to schedule a tour, contact your real estate agent with the correct MLS number.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spring is a popular time to purchase and sell a home. Here are 10 homes for sale in Spokane for $125,000. These homes were found on www.WindermereSpokane.com. If you would like more information on any of these homes or would like to schedule a tour, contact your real estate agent with the correct MLS number.>>