ALMA Detects Powerful Flare from Proxima Centauri

Find out the latest thinking about our universe.
User avatar
Apathetic Retiree
Posts: 20617
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:06 pm
Location: Oklahoma

ALMA Detects Powerful Flare from Proxima Centauri

Post by bystander » Fri Mar 02, 2018 5:26 pm

Powerful Flare from Star Proxima Centauri Detected with ALMA
ALMA | NRAO | NAOJ | ESO | 2018 Feb 26

Puts habitability of nearby system into question

Space weather emitted by Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our sun, may make that system rather inhospitable to life after all.

Using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a team of astronomers discovered that a powerful stellar flare erupted from Proxima Centauri last March. This finding raises questions about the habitability of our solar system’s nearest exoplanetary neighbor, Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri.

At its peak, the newly recognized flare was 10 times brighter than our sun’s largest flares, when observed at similar wavelengths. Stellar flares have not been well studied at the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths detected by ALMA, especially around stars of Proxima Centauri’s type, called M dwarfs, which are the most common in our galaxy. ...

The flare increased Proxima Centauri’s brightness by 1,000 times over 10 seconds. This was preceded by a smaller flare; taken together, the whole event lasted fewer than two minutes of the 10 hours that ALMA observed the star between January and March of last year. ...

Detection of a Millimeter Flare from Proxima Centauri - Meredith A. MacGregor et al
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
— Garrison Keillor

User avatar
4725 Å
Posts: 11258
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: ALMA Detects Powerful Flare from Proxima Centauri

Post by Ann » Sat Mar 03, 2018 9:29 am

To me, this result suggests that tiny M-type stars are not good hosts for life-bearing planets.

I know I read someplace, quite recently, that late M-type dwarfs like Proxima Centauri are unlikely to host life-bearing planets. The best life-friendly stars, according to what I read, are K-type stars.

I haven't been able to find the article that I read, but I found another article or blog post, admittedly from 2009, which also touted K-class stars as ideal for life-bearing planets.

Color Commentator

User avatar
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Posts: 2636
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 1:24 pm
Location: Dartmouth, NS, Canada

Re: ALMA Detects Powerful Flare from Proxima Centauri

Post by rstevenson » Sat Mar 03, 2018 3:38 pm

About 12% of local stars are K-type, while about 7.5% are G-type, including our Sun. So in our neighbourhood, nearly 1 in 5 stars are amenable to hosting life, assuming suitable planets in the Mama Bear zone, that is. Must get out there and start knocking on doors!