The Detectability of Radio Auroral Emission from Proxima b

Blakesley Burkhart, Abraham Loeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Magnetically active stars possess stellar winds whose interactions with planetary magnetic fields produce radio auroral emission. We examine the detectability of radio auroral emission from Proxima b, the closest known exosolar planet orbiting our nearest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri. Using the radiometric Bode's law, we estimate the radio flux produced by the interaction of Proxima Centauri's stellar wind and Proxima b's magnetosphere for different planetary magnetic field strengths. For plausible planetary masses, Proxima b could produce radio fluxes of 100 mJy or more in a frequency range of 0.02-3 MHz for planetary magnetic field strengths of 0.007-1 G. According to recent MHD models that vary the orbital parameters of the system, this emission is expected to be highly variable. This variability is due to large fluctuations in the size of Proxima b's magnetosphere as it crosses the equatorial streamer regions of dense stellar wind and high dynamic pressure. Using the MHD model of Garraffo et al. for the variation of the magnetosphere radius during the orbit, we estimate that the observed radio flux can vary nearly by an order of magnitude over the 11.2-day period of Proxima b. The detailed amplitude variation depends on the stellar wind, orbital, and planetary magnetic field parameters. We discuss observing strategies for proposed future space-based observatories to reach frequencies below the ionospheric cutoff (∼10 MHz), which would be required to detect the signal we investigate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL10
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume849
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • planet-star interactions
  • planets and satellites: magnetic fields
  • stars: low-mass
  • stars: winds, outflows

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