FEB 26, 2018 6:01 PM PST

Proxima b May Not Be a Habitable Exoplanet After All

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Orbiting the nearby star Proxima Centauri is an Earth-like exoplanet called Proxima b. Planetary scientists have marveled over Proxima b’s potential habitability since its detection in 2016, but the 4.25 light years that separate this distant world from our own make it challenging to study.

A massive solar flare eminating from Proxima Centauri last year suggests that Proxima b may not be a habitable exoplanet after all.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO, NASA/JPL

Challenges aside, an exoplanet’s host star can speak volumes about its habitability, and recent findings uncovered by astronomers from the Carnegie Institution for Science may come with implications for Proxima b’s ability to support life.

The astronomers stumbled upon a rather bright solar flare emanating from Proxima Centauri while studying the star with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile last year.

Citing the study, which has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters this week, the flare reached a peak luminosity of more than ten times what we’d expect from our own Sun during its most violent lash-outs.

And if that’s not extreme enough, the astronomers say the flare out-shined Proxima Centauri’s normal brightness by more than 1,000 times during a ten-second period.

Related: NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will help us explore Proxima b

Powerful solar flares like this one can be a deal-breaker when considering an exoplanet’s habitability. They bombard orbiting exoplanets with high amounts of deadly radiation, and life as we know it doesn’t take too kindly to harsh environments of this nature.

“It's likely that Proxima b was blasted by high energy radiation during this flare,” explained study lead author Meredith McGregor.

“Over the billions of years since Proxima b formed, flares like this one could have evaporated any atmosphere or ocean and sterilized the surface, suggesting that habitability may involve more than just being the right distance from the host star to have liquid water.”

Related: Does Proxima b have a global ocean?

These findings paint a bleak picture concerning Proxima b’s ability to support life. It seems unlikely given the high levels of radiation that the exoplanet experiences from its host star, and it further underscores the uniqueness our solar system compared to neighboring stellar systems.

“There is now no reason to think that there is a substantial amount of dust around Proxima Cen,” added study co-author Alycia Weinberger in a statement. “Nor is there any information yet that indicates the star has a rich planetary system like ours.”

Source: Carnegie Science

About the Author
Other
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Climate Change Will Affect Ground-Based Astronomical Observatories
Climate Change Will Affect Ground-Based Astronomical Observatories
In a paper recently published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, astronomers at the University of Bern stress that anthrop ...
OCT 07, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Early Stellar Evolution Imprints in Stellar Oscillations
Early Stellar Evolution Imprints in Stellar Oscillations
A new study published in Nature Communications is shedding new light on the theory of stellar evolution. Astronomers at ...
NOV 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
New Evidence Suggests Ancient Northern Ocean on Red Planet
New Evidence Suggests Ancient Northern Ocean on Red Planet
In a recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a pair of researchers examined topographic ...
NOV 24, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Ancient Mars Global Ocean Was Possibly Close to One Thousand Feet Deep
Ancient Mars Global Ocean Was Possibly Close to One Thousand Feet Deep
In a recent study published in Science Advances, an international team of researchers led by the Paris Globe Institute o ...
JAN 16, 2023
Chemistry & Physics
Researchers Unwrap Heat Secrets of Sun's Corona
Researchers Unwrap Heat Secrets of Sun's Corona
In a recent study published in Science Advances, a team of researchers led by Princeton University have revealed the lon ...
JAN 15, 2023
Space & Astronomy
JWST Reveals Dusty Disk in Attempt to Directly Image Exoplanets
JWST Reveals Dusty Disk in Attempt to Directly Image Exoplanets
A team of astronomers have been using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to attempt to directly image exoplanets arou ...
Loading Comments...