Auroras shimmer outside our solar system too

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 22, 2013 08:20 hrs

London, Jan 22 (IANS) Astrophysicists have unearthed new evidence suggesting that auroras similar to aurora Borealis also glow outside our solar system.

Auroras occur when charged particles in an object's magnetosphere collide with atoms in its upper atmosphere, causing them to glow.

However, before hitting the atmosphere, these particles also emit radio waves into space.

These celestial displays of light occur on several planets within our solar system, and the brightest on Jupiter are 100 times more radiant than those on Earth.

However, no auroras have yet been observed beyond Neptune.

A new study led by University of Leicester astrophysicist Jonathan Nichols has shown that processes strikingly similar to those which power Jupiter's auroras could be responsible for radio emissions detected from a number of objects outside our solar system, the Astrophysical Journal reports.

In addition, the radio emissions are powerful enough to be detectable across interstellar distances - meaning that auroras could provide an effective way of observing new objects outside our solar system, according to a Leicester statement.

Nichols, research fellow in physics and astronomy at Leicester, said: "We have recently shown that beefed-up versions of the auroral processes on Jupiter are able to account for the radio emissions observed from certain 'ultracool dwarfs' - bodies which comprise the very lowest mass stars - and 'brown dwarfs' - 'failed stars' which lie in between planets and stars in terms of mass."

"These results strongly suggest that auroras do occur on bodies outside our solar system, and the auroral radio emissions are powerful enough - one hundred thousand times brighter than Jupiter's - to be detectable across interstellar distances," concluded Nicholas.

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