A rocky Earth-sized exoplanet called YZ Ceti b has been found around a star located about 12 light years away from Earth, exhibiting one of the unique criteria for inhabiting life – a magnetic field. Earth has been protected over time from the high energy particles and plasma usually set out from the sun by its magnetic field. This capability is vital for life sustainability on the planet. At this time, YZ Ceti b is not habitable because it is too close to its star but it does have one other similarity with Earth – the Northern Lights. The researchers discovered radio signals, which may have been created by interactions produced by the planet’s magnetic field and the star it revolves around.
A planet’s magnetic field has the ability to prevent the constant wear and tear of its atmosphere by particles coming out of its star, leading to a planet’s death. Therefore, understanding if distant planets have a magnetic field is essential to locating potentially life-bearing or inhabitable worlds. As a strong magnetic field could be vital in a planet’s atmosphere, scientists believe that the detection of Earth-like planets with magnetic fields is crucial. Since magnetic fields are imperceptible, it is difficult to ascertain if a distant planet has one. However, the researchers at Bucknell University discovered radio waves that they believed were made by interactions between the planet’s magnetic field and the star it orbits.
The scientists further mentioned that if YZ Ceti b has its own atmosphere, there should be aurora borealis in the planet, similar to that of Earth. The interactions between YZ Ceti b and its star indeed produce aurora borealis; nonetheless, scientists need to conduct more work before it can be confirmed. Researchers agreed that YZ Ceti b is the most suitable candidate for a rocky exoplanet having a magnetic field discovered so far, highlighting that extensive follow-up work is necessary. Therefore, the planet’s atmosphere must be studied more before any definitive conclusion can be drawn as no atmosphere could mean the magnetic field is irrelevant.