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Massive flare seen on closest star to solar system: What it means for chances of alien neighbors

4 May 2021, 10:17 UTC
Massive flare seen on closest star to solar system: What it means for chances of alien neighbors
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Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the solar system and is home to a potentially habitable planet. Image via Hubble/ European Space Agency/ WikimediaCommons.
R. O. Parke Loyd, Arizona State University
The sun isn’t the only star to produce stellar flares. On April 21, 2021, a team of astronomers published new research in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, describing the brightest flare ever measured from Proxima Centauri in ultraviolet light, which occurred on May 1, 2019. To learn about this extraordinary event – and what it might mean for any life on the planets orbiting Earth’s closest neighboring star – The Conversation spoke with Parke Loyd, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and co-author of the paper. Excerpts from the conversation are below and have been edited for length and clarity.
Why were you looking at Proxima Centauri?
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to this solar system. A couple of years ago, a team discovered that there is a planet – called Proxima b – orbiting the star. It’s just a little bit bigger than Earth, it’s probably rocky and it is in what is called the habitable zone, or the Goldilocks zone. This means that Proxima b is ...

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