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Far Ultraviolet Flares an Issue for M-dwarf Planets

28 Aug 2020, 16:43 UTC
Far Ultraviolet Flares an Issue for M-dwarf Planets
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SPARCS is the name of a CubeSat-based space mission out of Arizona State University, the acronym standing for Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat, with astronomer Evgenya Shkolnik as principal investigator. The idea here is to look at ultraviolet flare activity on M-dwarf stars, a wavelength about which we could do with a great deal more information. The plan is to target specific stars that will be observed continuously over at least one complete stellar rotation, which could be anything from five to forty-five days.
That this is a good idea is borne out by what we are learning about GJ 887, also known as Lacaille 9352 and known to be orbited by at least two planets. Located in the southern constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the star has the fourth highest known proper motion, with parallax measurements indicating it is a bit less than 11 light years from the Sun. It is one of the brightest M-dwarfs in our sky. When TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) fixed its gaze on GJ 887, it found no detectable flares over 27 days of continuous observation.
Which goes to show how much older data can help us. Fellow ASU astronomer Parke Loyd worked with Shkolnik ...

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