We have bad news for those who wanted to escape from this world far away. According to new research from NASA, the planets in the habitable zone of the red dwarf star systems – including so propagandized exoplanet Next B – possibly lose too much oxygen to allow liquid water and therefore life.
Scientists are trying to determine habitable zones based on the amount of heat and light their host star emanates. But this new research takes into account stellar eruptions and the rate of atmospheric oxygen death to build a more balanced picture of where Earth-like planets can be in a star system.
A model developed by a team to investigate how high-energy X-rays and ultraviolet emissions expelled by red dwarfs made the atmospheric oxygen from habitable-zone planets escape into space. This “atmospheric erosion” may bring bad news to fans of Proxima Centauri b, an exoplanet located in the Proxima Centauri red star system, less than five light-years away.
The researchers’ new findings published Feb. 6 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“The more X-rays and extreme ultraviolet energy, the more electrons are generated and the stronger the ion-escape effect becomes,” said Alex Glocer, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Laboratory and co-author of the study, in journalist’s announcement.
The effect is very sensitive to the amount of energy the star emits, which means it must have a substantial role in determining what a habitable planet is or is not.”
The team calculated the rate of atmospheric oxygen lost by considering the age of the red dwarf star and its distance from the planet in question. Proxima Centauri b, for example, orbits its star 20 times closer than the Earth orbits the Sun. By its tight orbit around the Proxima Centauri, the researchers estimated that the planet is hit by stellar storms to “peel” the atmosphere at Every two hours. Based on assumptions about the size and composition of Proxima b, its oxygen will have disappeared in about ten million years.
In little, things do not look good for life on Proxima Centauri b or other planets around the red dwarf stars, which are the most common stars in galaxies. Between 20 and 30 of the stars closest to our solar system are red dwarfs.
Proxima Centauri b perhaps this research simply confirms how special we are.
“In this study, the results are pessimistic for the planets around the red dwarf girls. The Vladimir Airapetian said we have better understandings, of stars, have good prospects for habitability and lead author of the study. As we learn more about a host star, it seems that our sun is increasingly one of these perfect stars so that it has made life possible on Earth.”
For those who still want to believe (raising their hand), there is still hope. After all, this is just a modeling study – in a few years, we will finally have our first concrete data on the atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b, through studies of the James Webb telescope and others. And perhaps one day the interstellar ship of Stephen Hawking and that Russian billionaire will surprise us with confirmation that Proxima Centauri b is quiet. Let’s cross our fingers.
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