A newly recognized flare 10 times brighter than our sun’s largest flares, has been ejected by Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our sun. And this may mean the system is rather inhospitable to life after all.

proxima centauri giant flare, Powerful Flare from Star Proxima Centauri Detected with ALMA puts habitability of nearby system into question
Powerful Flare from Star Proxima Centauri Detected with ALMA puts habitability of nearby system into question. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; D. Berry

The powerful stellar flare – that erupted on March 24, 2017 – was detected using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

The flare increased Proxima Centauri’s brightness by 1,000 times over 10 seconds.  This was preceded by a smaller flare.

March 24, 2017, was no ordinary day for Proxima Cen. It’s likely that Proxima b was blasted by high energy radiation during this flare. Over the billions of years since Proxima b formed, flares like this one could have evaporated any atmosphere or ocean and sterilized the surface, suggesting that habitability may involve more than just being the right distance from the host star to have liquid water.

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Astrophysical Journal Letters, NRAO.edu

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