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Hostile space weather might not be all bad for exoplanet life

6 Jan 2021, 13:30 UTC
Hostile space weather might not be all bad for exoplanet life
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Artist’s concept of a distant red dwarf star and accompanying exoplanet. Red dwarfs are common in our galaxy. They produce volatile, deadly flares – and accompanying space weather – that can erode the atmospheres of any nearby planets and severely endanger any existing life. But … maybe not always, according to a new study. Image via NASA/ ESA/ D. Player (STScI).
A few days ago, we reported new findings about how space weather in the vicinity of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our sun, might inhibit life on Proxima’s planets. Space weather stems from powerful radiation from flares on volatile red dwarf (or M dwarf) stars like Proxima. There are a lot of these stars in our galaxy, and it’s been with some wistfulness that astronomers in recent years have reported on how red dwarf flares can lead to space weather, decreasing the chance of exoplanet life. But science marches on, and now there’s a newly-announced study, from researchers at Northwestern University, that provides some hope for those searching for life. The study suggests that space weather might not always be fatal to life. Hostile space weather might even help astronomers detect life on exoplanets around red dwarfs or ...

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