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Massive stellar flare may have fried Earth’s nearest exoplanet

The radiation explosion from Proxima Centauri has scorched hopes for habitability nearby

By
7:00am, March 5, 2018
Proxima Centauri

TEMPER TANTRUM  Proxima Centauri released a gigantic flare on March 24, 2017, fizzling hopes that this nearby star’s Earth-mass planet is habitable.

Proxima Centauri has a temper. Earth’s nearest planet-hosting neighbor released a gigantic flare in March 2017, a new analysis of observations of the star shows. And that’s bad news for the potential for life on the star’s planet, Proxima b.

The star got 1,000 times brighter over 10 seconds before dimming again. That can best be explained by an enormous stellar flare, astronomer Meredith MacGregor of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and colleagues report February 26 in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Because Proxima b is so much closer to its star than Earth is to the sun, the flare would have blasted Proxima b with 4,000 times more radiation than Earth typically gets from the sun’s flares. “If there are flares like this at all frequently, then [the exoplanet] is likely not in the best shape,” MacGregor says.

Proxima

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