Extinction-level solar flares could be torching the nearest Earth-like planet

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Dec 15, 2016, 11:42 PM EST (Updated)

While we keep trying to crack the science behind a warp drive, would-be space explorers are mapping out potential planets we might like to explore. Well, it looks like the closest one might be torched long before we could ever make it.

Space reports that Proxima b, the Earth-sized planet orbiting Alpha Centauri (a mere 5.2 light-years from our solar system), could be getting regularly blasted by extinction-level solar flares from its own sun. The rocky planet falls in the “habitable zone” around Alpha Centauri, meaning it could potentially have temperatures that could potentially host water and life. But obviously not if it’s getting scorched with radiation. 

The potential superflares could be thousands of times more powerful that the ones we see from our sun here on Earth, partially due to the fact that Proxima b is a mere one-tenth of the distance from Mercury to our own sun. Dimitra Atri, a research scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, has been looking to study how these flares could affect exoplanets around the galaxy. Atri noted a big factor would be a planet’s biosphere, and if it’s capable of protecting the planet from the flares’ radiation.

So, before you start booking that star tour, make sure to pack some Grade A radiation shielding.

(Via Space)