Low-frequency (ν ≲ 150 MHz) stellar radio emission is expected to originate in the outer corona at heights comparable to and larger than the stellar radius. Such emission from the Sun has been used to study coronal structure, mass ejections and space-weather conditions around the planets1. Searches for low-frequency emission from other stars have detected only a single active flare star2 that is not representative of the wider stellar population. Here we report the detection of low-frequency radio emission from a quiescent star, GJ 1151—a member of the most common stellar type (red dwarf or spectral class M) in the Galaxy. The characteristics of the emission are similar to those of planetary auroral emissions3 (for example, Jupiter’s decametric emission), suggesting a coronal structure dominated by a global magnetosphere with low plasma density. Our results show that large-scale currents that power radio aurorae operate over a vast range of mass and atmospheric composition, ranging from terrestrial planets to main-sequence stars. The Poynting flux required to produce the observed radio emission cannot be generated by GJ 1151’s slow rotation, but can originate in a sub-Alfvénic interaction of its magnetospheric plasma with a short-period exoplanet. The emission properties are consistent with theoretical expectations4,5,6,7 for interaction with an Earth-size planet in an approximately one- to five-day-long orbit.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals
Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription
$29.99 / 30 days
cancel any time
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 12 digital issues and online access to articles
$119.00 per year
only $9.92 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Similar content being viewed by others
Source data for Fig. 2 are provided with the paper. The raw LOFAR data are available for download from the LOFAR long-term archive at https://lta.lofar.eu. GJ 1151 was detected in an exposure with observation i.d. L231631. Pre-calibrated and in-field source subtracted visibility data (about 50 GB) are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Schwenn, R. Space weather: the solar perspective. Living Rev. Sol. Phys. 3, 2 (2006).
Lynch, C. R., Lenc, E., Kaplan, D. L., Murphy, T. & Anderson, G. E. 154 MHz detection of faint, polarized flares from UV Ceti. Astrophys. J. Lett. 836, L30 (2017).
Zarka, P. Auroral radio emissions at the outer planets: observations and theories. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 20159–20194 (1998).
Zarka, P. Plasma interactions of exoplanets with their parent star and associated radio emissions. Planet. Space Sci. 55, 598–617 (2007).
Saur, J., Grambusch, T., Duling, S., Neubauer, F. M. & Simon, S. Magnetic energy fluxes in sub-Alfvénic planet star and moon planet interactions. Astron. Astrophys. 552, A119 (2013).
Turnpenney, S., Nichols, J. D., Wynn, G. A. & Burleigh, M. R. Exoplanet-induced radio emission from M dwarfs. Astrophys. J. 854, 72 (2018).
Lanza, A. F. Stellar coronal magnetic fields and star–planet interaction. Astron. Astrophys. 505, 339–350 (2009).
Shimwell, T. W. et al. The LOFAR Two-Metre Sky Survey—II. First data release. Astron. Astrophys. 622, A1 (2019).
Gaia Collaboration Gaia data release 2. Summary of the contents and survey properties. Astron. Astrophys. 616, A1 (2018).
Callingham, J. R., Vedantham, H. K., Pope, B. J. S. & Shimwell, T. W. LoTSS-HETDEX and Gaia: blind search for radio emission from stellar systems dominated by false positives. Res. Notes Am. Astron. Soc. 3, 37 (2019).
Dulk, G. A. Radio emission from the sun and stars. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 23, 169–224 (1985).
Jackson, P. D., Kundu, M. R. & White, S. M. Quiescent and flaring radio emission from the flare stars AD Leonis, EQ Pegasi, UV Ceti, Wolf 630, YY Geminorum and YZ Canis Minoris. Astron. Astrophys. 210, 284–294 (1989).
Villadsen, J. & Hallinan, G. Ultra-wideband detection of 22 coherent radio bursts on M dwarfs. Astrophys. J. 871, 214 (2019).
Hughes, V. A. & McLean, B. J. Radio emission from FK Comae. Astrophys. J. 313, 263 (1987).
Umana, G., Trigilio, C. & Catalano, S. Radio emission from Algol-type binaries. I. Results of 1992–1993 VLA survey. Astron. Astrophys. 329, 1010–1018 (1998).
Mercier, C., Subramanian, P., Chambe, G. & Janardhan, P. The structure of solar radio noise storms. Astron. Astrophys. 576, A136 (2015).
Hallinan, G. et al. Confirmation of the electron cyclotron maser instability as the dominant source of radio emission from very low mass stars and brown dwarfs. Astrophys. J. 684, 644–653 (2008).
Hallinan, G. et al. Magnetospherically driven optical and radio aurorae at the end of the stellar main sequence. Nature 523, 568–571 (2015).
Stepanov, A. V. et al. Microwave plasma emission of a flare on AD Leo. Astron. Astrophys. 374, 1072–1084 (2001).
Wu, C. S. & Lee, L. C. A theory of the terrestrial kilometric radiation. Astrophys. J. 230, 621–626 (1979).
Melrose, D. B. & Dulk, G. A. Electron-cyclotron masers as the source of certain solar and stellar radio bursts. Astrophys. J. 259, 844–858 (1982).
Peres, G., Orlando, S. & Reale, F. Are coronae of late-type stars made of solar-like structures? The X-ray surface flux versus hardness ratio diagram and the pressure–temperature correlation. Astrophys. J. 612, 472–480 (2004).
Cowley, S. W. H. & Bunce, E. J. Origin of the main auroral oval in Jupiter’s coupled magnetosphere–ionosphere system. Planet. Space Sci. 49, 1067–1088 (2001).
Turnpenney, S., Nichols, J. D. & Wynn, G. A. et al. Auroral radio emission from ultracool dwarfs: a jovian model. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 470, 4274–4284 (2017).
Nichols, J. D., Burleigh, M. R. & Casewell, S. L. et al. Origin of electron cyclotron maser induced radio emissions at ultracool dwarfs: magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling currents. Astrophys. J. 760, 59 (2012).
Dressing, C. D. & Charbonneau, D. The occurrence of potentially habitable planets orbiting M dwarfs estimated from the full Kepler dataset and an empirical measurement of the detection sensitivity. Astrophys. J. 807, 45 (2015).
Cauley, P. W., Shkolnik, E. L. & Llama, J. et al. Magnetic field strengths of hot Jupiters from signals of star–planet interactions. Nat. Astron. 3, 1128–1134 (2019).
Offringa, A. R., McKinley, B. & Hurley-Walker, N. et al. WSCLEAN: an implementation of a fast, generic wide-field imager for radio astronomy. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 444, 606–619 (2014).
Benz, A. O. Plasma Astrophysics: Kinetic Processes In Solar and Stellar Coronae 184 (Kluwer, 1993).
Melrose, D. B., Dulk, G. A. & Gary, D. E. Corrected formula for the polarization of second harmonic plasma emission. Proc. Astron. Soc. Aust. 4, 50–53 (1980).
López Fuentes, M. C., Klimchuk, J. A. & Démoulin, P. The magnetic structure of coronal loops observed by TRACE. Astrophys. J. 639, 459–474 (2006).
Shulyak, D., Reiners, A. & Engeln, A. et al. Strong dipole magnetic fields in fast rotating fully convective stars. Nat. Astron. 1, 0184 (2017).
Aschwanden, M. J. Relaxation of the loss-cone by quasi-linear diffusion of the electron-cyclotron maser instability in the solar corona. Astron. Astrophys. Suppl. Ser. 85, 1141–1177 (1990).
Kuznetsov, A. A. Kinetic simulation of the electron-cyclotron maser instability: relaxation of electron horseshoe distributions. Astron. Astrophys. 526, A161 (2011).
Ergun, R. E., Carlson, C. W. & McFadden, J. P. et al. Electron-cyclotron maser driven by charged-particle acceleration from magnetic field-aligned electric fields. Astrophys. J. 538, 456–466 (2000).
Newton, E. R. et al. The Hα emission of nearby M dwarfs and its relation to stellar rotation. Astrophys. J. 834, 85 (2017).
Wright, N. J., Newton, E. R., Williams, P. K. G., Drake, J. J. & Yadav, R. K. The stellar rotation–activity relationship in fully convective M dwarfs. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 479, 2351–2360 (2018).
Sciortino, S., Maggio, A., Favata, F. & Orlando, S. X-ray spectroscopy of the active dM stars: AD Leo and EV Lac. Astron. Astrophys. 342, 502–514 (1999).
Delfosse, X., Forveille, T., Perrier, C. & Mayor, M. Rotation and chromospheric activity in field M dwarfs. Astron. Astrophys. 331, 581–595 (1998).
Irwin, J. et al. On the angular momentum evolution of fully convective stars: rotation periods for field M-dwarfs from the MEarth transit survey. Astrophys. J. 727, 56 (2011).
Houdebine, E. R., Mullan, D. J., Paletou, F. & Gebran, M. Rotation–activity correlations in K and M dwarfs: I. Stellar parameters and compilations of v sin i and P/sin i for a large sample of late-K and M dwarfs. Astrophys. J. 822, 97 (2016).
Morin, J. et al. Large-scale magnetic topologies of mid M dwarfs. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 390, 567–581 (2008).
H.K.V. and J.R.C. thank D. Melrose, A. Vidotto and P. Zarka for discussions. H.K.V. thanks V. Ravi and G. Hallinan for discussions. The Leiden LOFAR team gratefully acknowledge support from the European Research Council under the European Unions Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Advanced Grant NEWCLUSTERS-321271. I.S. acknowledges funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 694513. G.J.W. gratefully acknowledges support of an Emeritus Fellowship from The Leverhulme Trust. S.P.O. acknowledges financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) under grant BR2026/23. M.H. acknowledges funding from the ERC under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 772663. This paper is based (in part) on data obtained with the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT). LOFAR is the Low Frequency Array designed and constructed by ASTRON. It has observing, data processing and data storage facilities in several countries, which are owned by various parties (each with their own funding sources), and that are collectively operated by the ILT foundation under a joint scientific policy. The ILT resources have benefited from the following recent major funding sources: CNRS-INSU, Observatoire de Paris and Université d’Orléans, France; BMBF, MIWF-NRW, MPG, Germany; Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI), Ireland; NWO, The Netherlands; The Science and Technology Facilities Council, UK. This work was in part carried out on the Dutch national e-infrastructure with the support of the SURF Cooperative through grants e-infra 160022 and 160152. The LOFAR software and dedicated reduction packages on https://github.com/apmechev/GRID_LRT were deployed on these e-infrastructure by the LOFAR e-infragroup. This research has made use of data analysed using the University of Hertfordshire high-performance computing facility (http://uhhpc.herts.ac.uk/) and the LOFAR-UK computing facility located at the University of Hertfordshire and supported by STFC (ST/P000096/1). This work was performed in part under contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by NASA through the Sagan Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. B.J.S.P. acknowledges being on the traditional territory of the Lenape Nations and recognizes that Manhattan continues to be the home to many Algonkian peoples. We give blessings and thanks to the Lenape people and Lenape Nations in recognition that we are carrying out this work on their indigenous homelands.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Relative astrometry of the radio source in GJ 1151 and the optical position of M-dwarf star GJ 1151. The optical position and proper-motion correction is based on the Gaia DR2 catalog. The error-bars show the ±1σ errors on the radio source centroid that were computed by adding the formal errors in source-finding and the absolute LoTSS astrometric uncertainty in quadrature.
About this article
Cite this article
Vedantham, H.K., Callingham, J.R., Shimwell, T.W. et al. Coherent radio emission from a quiescent red dwarf indicative of star–planet interaction. Nat Astron 4, 577–583 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1011-9
This article is cited by
Nature Astronomy (2023)
Drifting discrete Jovian radio bursts reveal acceleration processes related to Ganymede and the main aurora
Nature Communications (2023)
Nature Astronomy (2023)
Space Science Reviews (2023)