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Exoplanet Proxima B Could Possibly Host Life, In One Condition

Dec 16, 2016 06:44 AM EST
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Few weeks ago it was revealed by an astrobiologist with the Blue Marble Institute of Space Science that Proxima B is likely being pummelled regularly by "extinction-level" stellar flares.

He said: "It can be concluded that for close-in exoplanets with sizeable atmospheres and magnetospheres, the radiation dose contributed by stellar superflares may not be high enough to sterilize a planet (for life as we know it) but can result in frequent extinction level events."

But while burst of solar flares are constantly hitting Proxima B, Dimitra Atri also said that it could still host life if it has an atmosphere similar to Earth.

Atri performed simulations to see how the exoplanet would hold up. Science Alert reported that Atri took into account the type and size of stellar flares that we know of in the Universe; how thick the planet's atmosphere could be; and the strength of its magnetic field.

The simulations modeled the potential interactions of protons released during flares to a planet's atmosphere.

"One important aspect of this work is highlighting the critical importance of having a significant planetary magnetic field and good atmospheric shielding," Atri told Space.com.

"With these two factors, even the most extreme stellar flares will not have much impact on a primitive biosphere."

Atri also noted that until we get a chance to check out the planet more closely, we would never know whether there is a possibility that Proxima B has good athmospheric shielding as earth.

Phys.org notes that Proxima B is Earth's closest stellar neighbor and has been considered a good candidate for supporting life because it has a rocky surface and it orbits its star - Proxima Centauri, just 4.22 light years from the sun - closely enough to receive adequate warmth.

Atri's findings were published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society .

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