Pennsylvania professor photographs first radiation belt outside solar system

Photo credit: Chuck Carter, Melody Kao, The Heising Simmons Foundation

Lewisburg, Union County (WBRE/WYOU) — in April, Jackie Vilasen, a professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University, has discovered a planet orbiting a star. Just a month later, she was part of another team that made yet another discovery: the first radiation belt outside our solar system.

Professor Viracen and her team consisted of Postdoctoral Fellow Melody Cao from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Amy Miodushevsky of the National Radio Astronomical Observatory (NRAO) and Evgenia Shkolnik, professor at the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Vilasen and team will use a “high-sensitivity array,” a coordinated group of 39 telescoping satellite dish antennas spanning distances from Germany to Hawaii to capture high-resolution images of the radiation belts outside the solar system. recorded the first radiation belts observed at . These telescoping parabolic antennas are also called “earth-sized telescopes”.

This is the first time a radiation belt has been imaged outside the known solar system, located 17 light-years from Earth. There are two radiation belts in the known solar system, one around Earth, known as the Van Allen belts, and one around Jupiter.

“It’s really necessary to get such high-resolution images because we’re trying to zoom in on things that are unprecedentedly far away,” Vilasen explained.

However, an algorithm known as the Fourier transform is incorporated to check what the team has captured. So all telescopes collect as much light as possible and send it back to the astronomy team. Then, using Fourier transforms, the team transforms the numbers into images that can be read like musical notes. Large chunks correspond to low tones, and small, sharp edges correspond to high tones.

Left photo credits: Melodie Kao & Amy Mioduszewski.Right photo credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

The photo above is what Prof. Vilasen and his team received from the “High Sensitivity Array.” On the left is the actual image of the radiation belt around the brown dwarf that the team decoded, and on the right is Jupiter’s internal electron radiation belt.

This finding is very important because it shows that radiation belts can exist around planets, brown dwarfs, and even stars.

“Brown dwarfs are like larger, brighter exoplanet siblings, which makes them visible through telescopes. Why brown dwarfs emit bright radio waves has long been a mystery. , indicating that the radio waves are coming from radiation belts, donuts of high-energy electrons that fly around the edge of this brown dwarf,” Vilasen added.

The researchers measured very high-energy particles that underscore the danger of radiation belts, but the brown dwarf is too far away to be dangerous to Earth.

“By combining radio receiving antennas around the world, we are able to create incredibly high-resolution images that allow us to see things that no one has ever seen before. It’s like standing in Washington, D.C. and reading the top line on an eye chart,” Vilasen continued.

Research founded by the team was supported by NASA and the Heising Simmons Foundation.

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