Exoplanet sends strange radio waves into space: scientists hope for historic discovery

Dmitry IvancheskulLife
Radio signal from the exoplanet YZ Ceti b was captured by Very Large Array radio telescopes

Astronomers have managed to pick up a strange radio signal from the rocky exoplanet YZ Ceti b, which orbits its star 12 light-years from Earth. Scientists suggest that the received signal may indicate the existence of a magnetic field on the planet, which is necessary for life.

This is stated in a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy. If the scientists' guesses are correct, this means that for the first time in history, they have managed to detect a magnetic field on a planet outside our solar system.

The magnetic field is extremely important for the existence of life on planets. For example, on Earth, it protects all living organisms from the sun's rays and allows us to navigate in space by pointing the compass arrows to the north. Magnetic fields also create incredible auroras.

The magnetic field on YZ Ceti b was detected by the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescopes in New Mexico.

"This study not only shows that this particular rocky exoplanet likely has a magnetic field, but also offers a promising method to find more (such planets)," said study author Joe Pesce, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

Exoplanets with magnetic fields are of particular interest to astronomers because such fields protect the planet's atmosphere from being destroyed by energetic particles from the star. And where there is no atmosphere, there can be no life. According to LiveScience, this is why the search for habitable worlds partly depends on the ability of astronomers to determine whether such exoplanets have magnetic fields.

However, in the case of YZ Ceti b, scientists already know that the planet is not habitable because it is too close to its star. In addition to the uninhabitable temperature, the planet also moves so fast in its orbit that a year on it lasts only two Earth days.

The radio waves that astronomers on Earth have been able to pick up are believed to be the result of the star's aurora borealis. This spectacle was formed due to the interaction between the planet and the star.

Scientists suggest that the magnetic field of YZ Ceti b pushes electrically charged plasma back to the star, where it interacts with the magnetic field of the luminary, forming bright flashes of energy. Therefore, they do not exclude that the radio waves observed from Earth were the aurora borealis, probably created by the interaction with the planet.

The scientists are not 100% sure of their theory, so they intend to conduct further observations of YZ Ceti b to confirm that the aurora was indeed due to the magnetic field of the rocky planet, and not just a feature of the star itself.

Jackie Willadsen, a co-author of the study and an astronomer at Bucknell University (USA), said in a statement that the scientists' observation "may indeed be" the first detection of a magnetic field on a rocky exoplanet.

"But I think it will take a lot of further work before there is really strong confirmation of radio waves caused by the planet," she added.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told you about a black hole that opened in a distant galaxy, sending a beam towards the Earth.

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