Astronomers make leap in finding Earth-like planets — but what they’re looking for is invisible | Tech News

Astronomers hunting for Earth-like planets have discovered a planet in another solar system that appears to have one of the unique criteria for sustaining life — a magnetic field.

You may not stop often to thank Earth’s magnetic field for getting you here today, but it’s vital to protecting our planet’s life-sustaining atmosphere.

It does this by deflecting energetic particles and plasma that are regularly ejected from the sun.

Now, scientists think they have discovered another Earth-sized planet with a magnetic field — YZ Ceti b, a rocky planet orbiting a star about 12 light-years from Earth.

Astronomer Jackie Villadsen of Bucknell University in the United States said that because the magnetic field is invisible, it is a challenge to determine whether a distant planet actually has a magnetic field.

But if they do, says Joe Pesce of the National Science Foundation, being able to resolve these questions will be crucial in the search for potentially habitable or life-bearing worlds.

He added: “This study not only shows that this particular rocky exoplanet may have a magnetic field, but also provides a promising way to look for more.”

The researchers detected radio waves, which they believe are generated by the interaction between the planet’s magnetic field and the star it orbits.

The research was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Sebastian Pineda, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado, said a planet’s magnetic field prevents its atmosphere from being worn down over time by particles ejected from the star.

In other words, a strong magnetic field could mean life or death for a planet’s atmosphere.

read more:
Discovery of a supermassive black hole with a mass about 33 billion times that of the sun
Cosmic Explosion Could Be Brightest Ever

YZ Ceti b isn’t habitable — it’s too close to its star, but it has another similarity to Earth — the northern lights.

The Sun’s energetic particles form the solar weather around Earth, and the interaction between this and Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere produces the phenomenon of the Northern Lights, or Northern Lights.

Interactions between YZ Ceti b and its star also produce auroras — but on the star itself.

However, scientists say that if Earth has its own atmosphere, it should also have auroras.

Both researchers agree that YZ Ceti b is the best candidate for a rocky exoplanet with a magnetic field so far, but say “a lot of follow-up work” is needed before confirmation.

Source link