How extraterrestrial auroras can help us find other worlds

Posted by uatemp13 at Jan 18, 2013 12:12 PM |
University of Leicester scientist’s work on “northern lights” on other planets featured in New Scientist magazine
How extraterrestrial auroras can help us find other worlds

Dr Jonathan Nichols, Lecturer and Research Fellow in our Department of Physics and Astronomy

New Scientist magazine has published a feature on work being carried out by Dr Jonathan Nichols, a Lecturer and Research Fellow in our Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Dr Nichols is carrying out groundbreaking research into how extraterrestrial auroras can be used to detect previously undiscovered planets.

Auroral effects – such as the Aurora Borealis seen around our North Pole – are not just confined to Earth.

Auroras occur on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as well as – potentially – other planets outside our solar system.

Crucially, auroras emit radio waves – meaning that they can be used to detect previously planets which could not be discovered with other methods.

What’s more, the radio emission could provide us with key information about the length of the planet’s day, the strength of its magnetic field, how the planet interacts with its parent star and even whether it has any moons.

Dr Nichols is currently studying the auroral effects on planets within our solar system, including Jupiter. This will increase our chances of being able to detect auroral signals from further afield.

He uses a combination of data from spacecraft such as Cassini–Huygens, and Earth-orbiting telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope

You can read the full article here (full article behind paywall).