Space & Astronomy
Astronomers detect 'coherent' radio signal from distant planet
By T.K. Randall
April 4, 2023 · 32 comments
Could YZ Ceti b be home to alien life ? Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The encouraging discovery could indicate the presence of a magnetic field and the potential for alien life.
Finding extrasolar planets with the potential to host life as we know it is certainly no easy task, but this latest find - which has been reported by scientists at the US National Science Foundation (NSF) - could help point us in the direction of a candidate world that may be not all that unlike our own.
Situated around 12 light years away, the planet - named YZ Ceti b - is a rocky terrestrial world from which astronomers have been picking up an unusually coherent signal.
This doesn't mean that an intelligent alien civilization is trying to send us a message, however - the signal appears to be generated by interactions between the planet's parent star and its magnetic field.
If true, then it's an important find because the presence of a magnetic field is thought to be one of the key reasons our own planet is habitable, while others (like Mars) are not.
"We're actually seeing the aurora on the star â€” that's what this radio emission is," said astrophysicist Sebastian Pineda of the University of Colorado.
"There should also be aurora on the planet if it has its own atmosphere."
Whether or not this particular planet is habitable, however, remains unclear for now.
"The search for potentially habitable or life-bearing worlds in other solar systems depends in part on being able to determine if rocky, Earth-like exoplanets actually have magnetic fields," said Joe Pesce of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
"This research shows not only that this particular rocky exoplanet likely has a magnetic field but provides a promising method to find more."
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