Scientists detected a powerful, massive stellar flare discharged from Proxima Centauri. This phenomenon questions the thought that the Earth’s closest exoplanet known as Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri, could be a potentially habitable exoplanet.
The finding published in Astrophysical Journal Letters indicates that Proxima b was doomed with an intense explosion of radiation in March last year. Carnegie’s Meredith MacGregor and Alycia Weinberger, along with Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ David Wilner and Adam Kowalski and Steven Cranmer of the University of Colorado Boulder, identified the massive flare, according to Phys.org.
The team used and analyzed the observations captured by Atacama vast Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, to detect the powerful stellar flare, which occurred on March 24, 2017, according to MacGregor, the lead author of the study. She further said that Proxima b was likely blasted by high energy radiation during this flare.
It was like the exoplanet was hit with 4,000 times more radiation than solar flares fired on the planet Earth, which is protected by the planet’s magnetic field. At its peak luminosity, it was about 10 times brighter than the sun’s massive flares, according to New Atlas.
MacGregor said that over the billions of years since Proxima b formed, flares such as these could have evaporated any atmosphere or ocean and sterilized the surface. This phenomenon indicates that habitability may involve more than just being the right distance from the host star to have liquid water.
Meanwhile, in an earlier study, it indicated that Proxima Centauri was encircled by one or more huge, cold dust rings such as the Kuiper Belt in the solar system. The researchers said that the existence of dust could mean more planets or planetary bodies in the stellar system.
However, MacGregor and his team instead examined the data captured by ALMA and were able to detect the dominant explosion of radiation discharge from Proxima Centauri. Weinberger, the co-author of the study, said that there is no reason to think that there is a substantial amount of dust around Proxima Centauri nor is there any insight that suggests that the star has a rich planetary system just like our solar system.