Experts have detected a “coherent” radio signal from an alien planet with scientists believing this could mean that it is "potentially habitable".
The signal suggests the world has its own magnetic field – an essential component to sustaining life.
According to the Independent, Earth’s magnetic field protects us from high-energy particles and plasma blasts from the Sun.
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Therefore, any potentially habitable alien planet will need to have a similar protective field in place.
But researchers have struggled to confirm whether any distant worlds have the desired attributes, making it impossible to say whether they could support life.
However, the publication claims a new candidate changes this – YZ Ceti b, a rocky planet that orbits a star about 12 light years away.
YZ Ceti b has sent a repeating radio signal that comes from the star and seems to be affected by the planet.
Researchers say the detected signal was created when the star interacts with the planet's magnetic field.
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Because the two of them are so close together, the new candidate can be used to test theories about whether those magnetic fields could be detectable at such a distance.
Additionally, they could see effects similar to the aurora borealis.
“We’re actually seeing the aurora on the star — that’s what this radio emission is,” said Sebastian Pineda, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado and one of the researchers who saw the signal.
“There should also be aurora on the planet if it has its own atmosphere.”
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Joe Pesce, program director for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, added: “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.
“This research shows not only that this particular rocky exoplanet likely has a magnetic field but provides a promising method to find more.”
The findings are described in a new paper, ‘Coherent radio bursts from known M-dwarf planet-host YZ Ceti’, published in Nature Astronomy.
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