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January 15, 2016

Schematic of a plasma torus around an exoplanet

Schematic of a plasma torus around an exoplanet, which is created by the ions injected from an exomoon's ionosphere into the planet's magnetosphere.

Scientists hunting for life beyond Earth have discovered more than 1,800 planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, in recent years, but so far, no one has been able to confirm an exomoon. Now, a group of physicists at The University of Texas (UT) Arlington believes following a trail of radio wave emissions may lead them to that discovery.

In their published research findings, the researchers describe radio wave emissions that result from the interaction between Jupiters magnetic field and its moon Io. They suggest using detailed calculations about the Jupiter/Io dynamic to look for radio emissions that could indicate moons orbiting an exoplanet.

Current telescopes such as the National Science Foundation-supported Long Wavelength Array could be used to detect exomoons in closer planetary systems, with the bigger moons holding better the possibilities of detection, says Suman Satyal, a Ph.D. graduate student who worked with Zdzislaw Musielak, a professor of physics in the UT Arlington College of Science and co-author of a paper discussing this research.

To learn more, see the UT-Arlington news story Follow the radio waves to exomoons. (Date of Image: Unknown)

Credit: Suman Satyal, University of Texas, Arlington

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