The discovery of exoplanet Proxima B, regarded as a possible Earth, was spiced a lot of enthusiasm in the scientific and astronomical world. Unfortunately, NASA found that exoplanets in red dwarf habitable zones cannot support life, after all.
Proxima B was discovered in 2016. It is located more than four light years away from our planet, therefore scientists called it the “Earth Next Door”. Moreover, the exoplanet lies within the habitable zone of its star system. This made the scientists suspect that it might host liquid water that could sustain life.
Unfortunately, NASA’s discoveries shattered these hopes. They found that stellar eruptions occurred frequently in the red dwarf star system and these were a threat to the atmosphere of the exoplanets. These eruptions released material and radiation into space that could cause the reduction of oxygen quantities in the atmosphere of the exoplanets.
To determine if a planet was livable, scientists looked at what conditions the planet stars provided. They looked at how much light and heat they emitted. Apart from light and heat, the stars also emitted x-ray and ultraviolet radiation. What might be threatening for life-suitable conditions were the stellar eruptions.
Vladimir Airapetian, the lead author of the study, declared that, after analyzing all the weather conditions in space and what impact they might have on the atmosphere of a planet, they might find out what kind of a star is perfect for planets to sustain life.
So far, the studies showed that red dwarf star systems might be suitable for life, since they are cooler, smaller, and one of the most numerous in the universe. Also, their results suggested that a possible effect of intense stellar radiation was atmospheric erosion.
Moreover, they found that the younger the star was, the more likely it was to produce more powerful radiations. Young red dwarf stars could produce radiations so strong that they would allow the escape of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere of the planets.
In the end, after looking at Proxima B and the conditions provided by its parent star, they found that the exoplanet was subjected to intense ultraviolet radiation and superflares every two hours. Also, the magnetic activity and the stellar wind add to the harsh conditions on the exoplanet.
Given all these, NASA finds it highly unlikely that the exoplanet Proxima B in the red dwarf star system could have the suitable conditions to sustain life.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons