Observations of our nearest neighboring star dampen hopes for a potentially habitable planet

While Proxima b is 20 times closer than its star from Earth to the Sun, it receives a similar amount of energy – heat and light – that Earth gets from the Sun because Proxima Centauri is a cooler and smaller star.

This places the planet in what is called a “temperate zone” that is neither too hot nor too cold for some form of life to exist. This means it thinks it has a potential surface temperature range where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Scientists equate liquid water with life on Earth, and this has also benefited their search for life afterward.

However, new research has undermined hopes that any life proposition could exist on its surface, as the planet is likely experiencing inappropriate space weather.

A team of Australian researchers has shown for the first time a definitive link between light flares and radio explosions on a star other than the Sun. The result, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of Astrophysics, was an important step for using radio signals from distant stars to help understand the dramatic effects of space weather on solar systems outside our region.

Our sun regularly emits hot clouds of ionized particles during what we call “coronal mass ejection.” Lead author Andrew Zick, who took over the research, said that our “habitable zone” is further from the surface of the sun, because the sun is hotter than Proxima Centauri and others Of the red dwarf stars, which means that the Earth is relatively far from these events. ” Research while at the University of Sydney, in a press release.

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Coronal mass ejection is very active expulsions of ionized plasma and the radiation leaving the stellar atmosphere.

“Earth has a very strong planetary magnetic field that protects us from these intense outbursts of solar plasma. But because Proxima Centauri is a cold little red dwarf star, this means that this habitable region is very close to the star; much closer in than Mercury to our sun,” Zick said He is now a postdoctoral researcher at Macquarie University.

“What our research shows is that this makes planets extremely vulnerable to dangerous ionizing radiation that can effectively sterilize the planets.”

The results strongly suggest that planets around this type of star are likely to experience stellar flares and plasma ejections and may suffer strong atmospheric erosion, rendering them exposed to intense X-rays and UV rays.

Zick said that radio explosions could have occurred for different reasons than those in the sun, where they are usually associated with coronal mass ejection. But he said, “The probability that the observed solar flare and the wireless signal received from our neighbor will not be transmitted is much less than one chance in 128,000”.

“This might be bad news in space weather,” Zetsch added. “It seems likely that the most common stars in the galaxy – the red dwarfs – wouldn’t be great places to find life as we know it.”

However, Zick said it is theoretically possible that exoplanets – planets outside our solar system – could have magnetic fields like Earth.

There have been no observations of magnetic fields around the exoplanets yet, and finding them could be difficult, the statement said.

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“Even if there are magnetic fields, given the stellar proximity of the habitable zone planets around M dwarf stars, this might not be sufficient to protect them,” Zetsch said.

Proxima b was first found by Astronomers in 2016 And the Its existence has been confirmed again this year. It is one of about 4,000 exoplanets that have been observed since the 1990s.

Proxima Centauri’s observations were taken using CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometer Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope in Western Australia, and the Zadko Telescope at the University of Western Australia, among other instruments.

CNN’s Ashley Strickland contributed to this report.

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