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‘Strong aurora borealis’ on alien planets may be sending strange radio signals towards Earth

A recent study discovered four completely new alien planets after scientists found radio-bright flashes of aurora borealis in the atmosphere of those planets.

The auroras occur when the solar winds, intense storms of electrical particles emitted by the sun, collide in the planet’s magnetic shield.

Earth experiences the aurora borealis near the north and south poles, where dazzling displays of color and light can be seen across the night sky.

Astronomers know that the cosmic collision of the solar wind and magnetic fields also produces bright flashes of radio light that can be seen far across the galaxy. To a space observer hundreds of light-years away, Earth’s aurora may seem like sudden, bright bursts of radio energy.

In the recent study, published October 11 in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists believe they’ve discovered four completely new planets 160 light-years from Earth, by detecting the shimmering radio flashes of the aurora borealis in their atmosphere.

If confirmed by future research, these four alien worlds will be the first planets to be discovered through radio waves alone, the researchers said, which could open a new avenue for planet detection in our galaxy.

“It’s a sight that caught our attention from light years away,” senior study author Joseph Callingham, an astrophysicist at Leiden University in Germany, said in a statement.

Astronomers discovered these potential planets somewhat by accident, while surveying nearby red dwarf stars with the Low Frequency Radio Telescope (LOFAR) in the Netherlands. Red dwarfs are stars much smaller and cooler than our sun, and are believed to be the most common type of star in the galaxy, according to Space.

These stars usually contain very large magnetic fields, and tend to ignite with huge bursts of energy that can be seen across the electromagnetic spectrum.

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But of the 19 red dwarfs discovered by scientists, four seemed a little unusual. These strange stars also looked very old and magnetically inactive, but still shone with bright radio signals.

And if these signals were not caused by a large magnetic explosion, what could have caused them?

The team concluded, based on a mathematical model, that the strange radio signals likely come from the powerful aurorae process that occurs in the atmospheres of unseen, undiscovered planets orbiting ancient stars.

According to the study authors, the process is similar to the aurora borealis on Earth, where the charged solar wind collides with a magnetic field, but it may behave like the strong auroras seen on Jupiter.

And Jupiter’s aurora borealis are much more powerful than Earth, as its volcanic moon Io spews material out into space, filling Jupiter’s environment with particles that drive extraordinarily strong auroras. Our model for this radio emission from our stars is an extended version of Jupiter and Io,” according to Callingham.

With radio data alone, researchers cannot be sure that hidden planets are responsible for the strange signals around these ancient stars. However, the team said that strong planetary aurora appears to be the most plausible explanation at the moment.

Further observations of fading stars could reveal whether the team’s theory is correct, and whether bright bursts of radio energy could help lead astronomers to more exotic worlds in the future.

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