Radio signals from distant stars suggest hidden planets

12 October 2021

Using the world’s most powerful radio antenna, scientists have discovered stars unexpectedly blasting out radio waves, possibly indicating the existence of hidden planets.

The University of Queensland’s Dr Benjamin Pope and colleagues at the Dutch national observatory ASTRON have been searching for planets using the world’s most powerful radio telescope Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) situated in the Netherlands.

“We’ve discovered signals from 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which are best explained by the existence of planets orbiting them,” Dr Pope said.

With Australia and South Africa’s Square Kilometre Array radio telescope finally under construction, hopefully switching on in 2029, the team predict they will be able to see hundreds of relevant stars out to much greater distances.

This work demonstrates that radio astronomy is on the cusp of revolutionising our understanding of planets outside our Solar System.

The research has been published in Nature Astronomy (Callingham et al; DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01483-0) and Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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