Earth’s magnetic field provides various benefits such as protection from the sun’s harmful rays and the creation of beautiful aurora borealis.
Other planets in our solar system also have magnetic fields. However, scientists have long wondered whether Earth-like planets in other star systems have magnetic fields.
Recently, a possible answer emerged with the discovery of evidence of a magnetic field on YZ Ceti b, a rocky exoplanet located 12 light-years from Earth. The discovery, made using the Very Large Array radio telescopes in New Mexico, marks the first possible detection of a magnetic field on an exoplanet, according to a study published in Nature Astronomy on April 3.
“This research shows not only that this particular rocky exoplanet likely has a magnetic field, but provides a promising way to find more,” study author Joe Pesci, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), said in a statement.
The importance of magnetic fields in creating habitable planets makes it an interesting topic for astronomers. Planets that lack a magnetic field are vulnerable to energetic particles from a star that can strip away their atmosphere, making them unsuitable for life.
In the search for habitable worlds in other solar systems, determining whether Earth-like exoplanets have magnetic fields is critical, Peske says.
Although not a habitable planet, YZ Ceti b provided a unique opportunity for astronomers to detect radio waves from the magnetic field of a distant exoplanet. The planet orbits very close to its star, and one year on YZ Ceti b is only two Earth days.
This proximity allows the planet to “plow” through the star’s matter, and its magnetic field pushes electrically charged plasma toward the star, creating bright flashes of energy when it interacts with the star’s magnetic field.
According to the researchers, the detected radio waves are likely auroras on the star, created through interactions with the planet.
This discovery provides a promising lead in determining magnetic fields on Earth-like planets in other solar systems and advances the search for potentially habitable worlds beyond our own.
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