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.