Search for Cyclotron-maser Radio Emission from Extrasolar Planets
G.A. Dulk, Y. Leblanc (Obs. Paris), T.S. Bastian (NRAO)
There is reason to believe that extrasolar planets and/or brown dwarfs of mass about 1 to 50 M have magnetic fields, that they emit extremely intense cyclotron-maser radiation at metric wavelengths, and that this radiation may be detectable with sensitive radio telescopes like the VLA. The radiation is emitted at the electron cyclotron frequency, and has been detected from Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, from the Sun, from flare stars, and close binaries. The frequency range of cyclotron maser radiation is fixed by the magnetic field strength on the object. To be detected at, say 0.33 GHz, the required field strength is 118 G, which is intermediate between the 14 G field of Jupiter and the G field of stellar active regions. An estimation of the flux density of the expected radiation can be made from an interpolation between Jupiter's radio emission ( mJy at 5 AU) and that of nearby red dwarf stars ( mJy at 3 pc). Thus the flux from a planet or brown dwarf 3 to 30 times massive than Jupiter is plausibly 1 to 10 mJy, easily detectable with the VLA.
If emission is detected, several important parameters about the planet can be deduced: the strength of its magnetic field, the period of its rotation, and the possible existence of a moon such as Jupiter's Io. Possible means of distinguishing stellar maser emissions from those of planets include: 1) Temporal variations and spectra differ from stars to planets. 2) The polarization is likely to be 100% circular or elliptical for planets, but not for stars.
We have searched for exoplanet radio emission with 60 hours of observations with the VLA during November 1996. The observed stars with giant planets or brown dwarfs included 51 Peg, 70 Vir, 47 UMa, 55 CnC, Tau Boo, Gl 229, and HD 114762. We will present the method of observation, the limitations due to confusion and background noise, and the results.