Context: Astronomers have detected a repeating radio signal from exoplanet YZ Ceti b suggesting the presence of a magnetic field — one of the prerequisites for a habitable planet — around it.
- YZ Ceti b is a rocky, earth-sized exoplanet rotating around a small red dwarf star, YZ Ceti, barely 12 light-years from Earth.
- Just as energy surges from the sun sometimes disrupt telecommunications on Earth and damage orbiting satellites, intense bursts of energy from the YZ Ceti star-exoplanet exchange produce spectacular auroral lights. This is seen indirectly in the form of the radio emission.
- These radio waves, strong enough to be detected from Earth, confirmed the existence of an exoplanetary magnetic field. Such signals can only be produced if the exoplanet orbits very close to its parent star and has its own magnetic field to influence the stellar wind and generate the signals.
- Survival of a planet’s atmosphere may depend on its having, or not having, a strong magnetic field, since the field protects its atmosphere from being eroded by the charged particles from its star.
What is the magnetic field of YZ Ceti b?
The discovery of a repeating radio signal from YZ Ceti b suggests that the planet has a magnetic field. This is important because a magnetic field can help to protect a planet from harmful solar radiation. Scientists are still trying to learn more about the magnetic field of YZ Ceti b, and how it could impact the planet’s habitability.
How did YZ Ceti b form?
YZ Ceti b is thought to have formed in the same way that Earth did, through the accretion of dust and gas around a young star. However, there are some key differences between the formation of YZ Ceti b and the formation of Earth. For example, YZ Ceti b is orbiting a much smaller star than Earth, and it is also much closer to its star. These factors could have had a significant impact on the way that YZ Ceti b formed, and on its eventual habitability.