Space weather threatens planetary habitability

(ORDO NEWS) — The discovery, which links stellar flares to radio burst signatures, will make it easier for astronomers to detect space weather around nearby stars outside the solar system.

Unfortunately, the first weather reports from our closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, do not promise to find life as we know it. Proxima Centauri is only 4.2 light years from Earth.

“Astronomers recently discovered that there are two Earth-like rocky planets around Proxima Centauri, one in the habitable zone where any water can be in liquid form,” said Andrew Zick of the University of Sydney. “Given that Proxima Centauri is a cool little red dwarf, this means that the habitable zone is very close to the star, much closer than Mercury is to the Sun. Our research shows that this makes planets highly vulnerable to dangerous ionizing radiation that can effectively sterilize planets.”

Under Zeke’s leadership, astronomers have shown for the first time a clear connection between optical flares and radio flares on a star other than the Sun. The discovery, published today in The Astrophysical Journal, marks an important step towards harnessing radio signals from distant stars to efficiently generate space weather reports.

“Our Sun regularly emits hot clouds of ionized particles during coronal mass ejections. The Sun is much hotter than Proxima Centauri and other red dwarf stars, so our habitable zone is far from the surface of the Sun, meaning the Earth is relatively far from these events, ”explains Zeke. “In addition, the Earth has a very powerful planetary magnetic field that protects us from intense explosions of solar plasma.”

He said: “Radio bursts from red dwarfs can occur for reasons other than the Sun, where they are usually associated with coronal mass ejections. But it is very likely that there are similar events associated with stellar flares and radio bursts that we saw in this study.”

Coronal mass ejections are extremely powerful ejections of ionized plasma and radiation that leave the stellar atmosphere.

“This is bad news about space weather. It seems likely that the most abundant stars in the galaxy, red dwarfs, will not be a great place to find life as we know it, ”said Zich.

In the past decade, there has been a resurgence in the detection of planets orbiting stars outside the solar system. More than 4,000 exoplanets are now known.

This raised hopes for the discovery of terrestrial-like conditions. Recent research suggests that about half of the Sun-like stars in the Milky Way may be home to such planets. But stars like the Sun make up only 7% of the stellar objects in the galaxy. In contrast, red dwarfs like Proxima Centauri make up about 70% of the stars in the Milky Way.

The data obtained strongly indicate that the planets around these stars will be subject to stellar flares and plasma ejections.

Observations of Proxima Centauri were obtained with the CSIRO Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope in Western Australia, the Zadko telescope at the University of Western Australia, and a number of other instruments.

“Studying space weather is critical to understanding the evolution of our planet’s biosphere, but also to understanding the future,” said Bruce Gendre of the University of Western Australia.

Professor Murphy said: “This is an exciting result from ASKAP. The incredible quality of the data made it possible to observe the stellar flare from Proxima Centauri throughout its evolution with amazing detail. Most importantly, we can see polarized light as a sign of these events. It’s a bit like looking at a star in sunglasses. When ASKAP goes into full view mode, we will be able to observe much more events in nearby stars. ”

This will allow you to better understand the space weather around nearby stars.


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