The star closest to Earth, Proxima Centauri, released the fiercest explosion ever recorded, about a hundred times more powerful than any other explosion observed in our sun.
A red dwarf, about one-eighth the mass of our sun – a yellow dwarf – Proxima Centauri lies about 4.2 light years (40 trillion kilometers) from Earth, in the constellation Centaur. For comparison, our sun is about 150 million kilometers away from here.
It was thought that one of the exoplanets of Proxima Centauri could harbor life. But with devastating eruptions of this scale, the odds are slim. This was the first time that scientists observed this phenomenon in such rich detail on a star other than the Sun. The research, led by a team from the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA, is published in the journal. The Astrophysical Journal Letters Last Wednesday (21).
Astronomers believe that a stellar “flare” occurs when magnetic fields near the surface of a star are twisted and refracted, releasing electromagnetic energy concentrated at a certain point.
Proxima Centauri overexploitation occurred on May 1, 2019, and lasted only seven seconds. At the time, it was 14,000 times brighter when viewed through ultraviolet wavelengths – but it didn’t produce much visible light.
The moment was captured by five of nine telescopes at various points on Earth and in space, including Hubble, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder) and Alma (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter) Array).
At the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile, Alma is a modern radio telescope consisting of 66 antennas, which studies the radiation produced by objects and is essential to our studies of the origin of the universe.
Through observations, scientists also confirmed that the star has at least two planets around it. One of them, called Proxima Centauri b, is located in a technically habitable area, with temperatures suitable for maintaining liquid water.
Most exoplanets (extrasolar planets) are located around abundant red dwarfs. The problem is that, despite its small size, it is much more energetic than our Sun, and explodes with greater intensity and frequency. Every day there may be “seizures” of more or less severity.
The event recorded at Proxima Centauri is believed to have been among the fiercest in our entire galaxy, the Milky Way. This creates an inhospitable environment for every life form we know of. Not only can these explosions destroy living things, but they can also destroy the planet, destroying its atmosphere, for example.
On the other hand, radiation can trigger reactions arising from life, and we already know terrestrial microorganisms, such as Tardigrades, Who seem immune to it.
“If there is life on the planet closest to Proxima Centauri, it must be very different from anything on Earth,” said astrophysicist Meredith MacGregor, lead author of the study.
The energy of a starburst can be observed across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays. This was the first time that this phenomenon had been recorded with full wavelength coverage on a star other than our Sun, and also the first time that millimeter radiation had been observed in a starburst.
By observing such a powerful volcanic eruption, and with such a wealth of detail, astronomers and astrophysicists can better understand the mechanism and the mysteries behind it. This could also make our search for life outside the solar system more efficient by reviewing the habitability of the Milky Way in extreme environments such as areas around a red dwarf.