Astronomers have detected a repeating radio signal coming from an Earth-sized exoplanet located about 51 light-years away from our planet. The discovery, made by a team of scientists using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio telescope in the Netherlands, could provide important clues about the nature of exoplanetary magnetic fields and the potential for extraterrestrial life.
More About The Exoplanet
The exoplanet, known as TOI 849 b, was first discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in 2019. It orbits a sun-like star every 18 hours, making it incredibly close to its host star and very hot, with a surface temperature estimated to be around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the repeating radio signal appears to be generated by the planet’s magnetic field. Which interacts with the stellar wind from its host star. The signal, which has a frequency of 78 megahertz, was observed over a period of 30 hours and appears to be consistent with a rotating magnetic field.
“This is the first time we have found clear evidence for a magnetic field generated by tidal interactions between a planet and its host star,” said lead author Dr. Harish Vedantham of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.
The discovery of a magnetic field on an exoplanet the size of Earth is particularly significant because it suggests that such fields may be more common than previously thought. Magnetic fields are thought to be essential for protecting a planet’s atmosphere from being stripped away by stellar winds, which is a critical factor for the potential habitability of a planet.
The discovery also raises the possibility that exoplanets with magnetic fields could generate radio emissions that could be detected by telescopes. It is potentially providing a new tool for the search for extraterrestrial life.
“This discovery highlights the importance of studying the magnetic fields of exoplanets, particularly those in close proximity to their host stars,” said co-author Dr. Joe Callingham of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands.
While the discovery of a repeating radio signal from an Earth-sized exoplanet is exciting, the researchers caution that further observations are needed to confirm their findings and to determine whether the signal is truly coming from the exoplanet and not from another source.