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This hellish planet could hold the key to finding alien life

Published Apr 9th, 2023 9:02AM EDT
exoplanet Webb measure temperatures of
Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI), T. P. Greene (NASA Ames), T. Bell (BAERI), E. Ducrot (CEA), P. Lagage (CEA)

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The hunt for alien life has been long and arduous, with disappointing revelations. While we have yet to discover proof of aliens out there, our means of finding alien life in the universe are steadily advancing, and the latest development comes thanks to a hellish planet found 12 light-years from Earth.

The planet in question is a small rocky world known as YZ Ceti b. This planet orbits a small star, completing each rotation in two days. That quickness means the planet is much too close to its star, making its surface scorching hot.

Despite the extreme temperatures on the surface, scientists say it could hold the key to finding alien life in our universe more easily. That’s because scientists believe YZ Ceti b could have its own magnetic field — similar to Earth’s magnetic field that protects us from solar radiation. A paper on the findings is published in Nature Astronomy.

Earth's magnetic field reacting to solar storm
Rocky planets with magnetic fields may be more likely to support alien life than those without. Image source: koya979 / Adobe

Unfortunately, proving the existence of the magnetic field around YZ Ceti b is a bit more complex than just staring at it through a telescope. But, based on radio signals created by the planet and its star, scientists say it’s very likely that YZ Ceti b is protected by a magnetic field. Astronomers recently improved how we look for habitable planets by measuring the temperature of exoplanets using James Webb.

While this isn’t going to make the planet any more livable than it already is — YZ Ceti b’s surface reaches temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit — it could make it easier for scientists to find planets capable of supporting alien life, thus making it easier to find alien life in our massive universe.

Of course, there are some hindrances they’ll need to overcome, chief among them the fact that planets within their star’s habitable zone aren’t close enough to generate the kind of radio signals scientists picked up here. That means we can’t use the same process to find similar planets with magnetic fields.

But it gives us more information to build off of and helps solidify some things scientists might have already been leaning towards. And, if YZ Ceti b proves to have a magnetic field, it could mean that similar rocky worlds have them too. This, in turn, could make it easier for scientists to find evidence of alien life.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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