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Red Dwarfs, ‘Superflares’ and Habitability

18 Oct 2018, 17:18 UTC
Red Dwarfs, ‘Superflares’ and Habitability
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Given their ubiquity in the Milky Way, red dwarfs would seem to offer abundant opportunities for life to emerge. But we’re a long way from knowing how habitable the planets that orbit them might be. While mechanisms for moderating the climate on tidally locked worlds in tight habitable zones continue to be discussed, the issue of flares looms large. That makes a new survey of 12 young red dwarfs, and the project behind it, of unusual interest in terms of astrobiology.
What jumps out at the reader of Parke Loyd and team’s paper is the superflare their work caught that dwarfed anything ever seen from our own Sun, a much larger star. It was enough to set Loyd, a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University, back on his heels.
“When I realized the sheer amount of light the superflare emitted, I sat looking at my computer screen for quite some time just thinking, ‘Whoa.’” He adds: “With the Sun, we have a hundred years of good observations. And in that time, we’ve seen one, maybe two, flares that have an energy approaching that of the superflare. In a little less than a day’s worth of Hubble observations of these ...

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