Gregg Hallinan of the National University of Ireland, Galway, who is presenting the discovery at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Preston on 18th April, said, “Brown dwarfs tend to be seen as a bit boring – the cinders of the galaxy. Our research shows that these objects can be fascinating and dynamic systems, and may be the key to unlocking this long-standing mystery of how pulsars produce radio emissions.”
Since the discovery of pulsars forty years ago, astronomers have been trying to understand how the rotating neutron stars produce their flashing radio signals. Although there have been many attempts to describe how they produce the extremely bright radio emissions, the vast magnetic field strengths of pulsars and the relativistic speeds involved make it extremely difficult to model. Brown dwarfs are now the second class of stellar object observed to produce this kind of powerful, amplified (coherent) radio signal at a persistent level. The emissions from the brown dwarfs appear to be very similar to those observed from pulsars, but the whole system is on a much slower and smaller scale, so it is much easier to decipher exactly what is going on. Importantly, the mechanisms for producing the radio emissions in brown dwarfs are well understood, as they are almost identical to the processes that produce radio emissions from planets.
Hallinan said, “It looks like brown dwarfs are the missing step between the radio emissions we see generated at Jupiter and those we observe from pulsars”.
Jupiter’s volcanic moon, Io, is a source of electrically charged gas that is accelerated by the planet’s magnetic field and causes powerful radio laser, or maser, emissions. The radiation can be so intense that Jupiter frequently outshines the Sun as a source of energy at radio wavelengths. For some time, scientists have thought that there may be similarities between this type of maser emission and pulsars’ lighthouse-like beams of radio waves. Observations of the brown dwarf, TVLM 513, using the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, may provide the first direct evidence for that link.
The group observed the brown dwarf over a period of 10 hours at two different frequencies. In both cases, a bright flash was observed every 1.96 hours.
As yet, the processes controlling the radio flashes from TVLM 513 are still unclear. There is no evidence of a binary system, so interaction of the magnetosphere with a stellar wind from a nearby star seems an unlikely cause, nor is there any sign of an orbiting planet that could produce a scenario like that of Jupiter and Io. However, rapid rotation is also thought to be a source of electron acceleration for a component of Jupiter’s maser emission and this may also be the main source of TVLM 513’s radio flashes.
The group is now planning a large survey of all the known brown dwarfs in the solar neighbourhood to find out how many are radio sources and how many of those are pulsing. If a large fraction of brown dwarfs are found to pulse, it could prove a key method of detection for these elusive objects.
Anita Heward | alfa
OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma
First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences
27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences