Alien worlds with life may snap, crackle and pop
In a new research, scientists have suggested that alien worlds which are friendly to life could snap, crackle and pop, in the form of radio signals crackling from their magnetic fields.india Updated: Mar 25, 2009 14:12 IST
In a new research, scientists have suggested that alien worlds which are friendly to life could snap, crackle and pop, in the form of radio signals crackling from their magnetic fields.
According to a report in New Scientist, the research was conducted by Joseph Lazio at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC and colleagues.
When struck by high-energy particles in the solar wind, an exoplanet’s magnetic field may produce radio signals from auroras in the planet’s atmosphere.
“While current telescopes have yet to pick up these crackles, it’s an area worth exploring,” said Lazio.
Because a magnetic field helps to preserve atmospheres and oceans, a magnetosphere may signify that a planet has complex surface life.
“This is something we think is worth studying at a modest level, the payoff could be immense,” said Lazio.
The snag is that scientists would need a space telescope 100 times as sensitive as any planned to find auroras within a few dozen light years, because the Earth’s atmosphere would absorb the low frequency signals.
That leads some planet hunters to doubt the idea’s feasibility.
“We have never directly detected the magnetosphere from any extrasolar planet, despite strong efforts,” said Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley.
“Yet planetary magnetospheres would be easier to spot at radio frequencies than planets themselves,” said Gordon Walker of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who has spotted an exoplanet’s magnetic field indirectly by studying its host star.
“It’s an exciting proposal,” he said.
First Published: Mar 25, 2009 14:11 IST