Last year, Proxima b has been discovered by astronomers. According to experts, this planet, which orbits Prxima Centauri, can accommodate life. It is also one of the closest stars in our solar system at a distance of four light years.
However, more recent findings have proven that Proxima b, together with other exoplanets in orbit surrounding red dwarf stars, are inhabitable. This is because NASA scientists changed their perspective in defining habitable zones. It seems that based on the new standards, the impact of space weather takes a major impact in determining whether a planet can be lived in or not.
Experts calculate habitability based on the amount of light and heat a star emits. Therefore, stars that are bigger than the sun have a higher rate of being habitable if they emit more light and heat. Researchers came to the conclusion that the only region which can be habitable is a planetary surface which can support liquid water, according to New Atlas.
However, NASA pointed out that they did not take into account X-ray emissions and ultraviolet radiations, solar flares and coronal mass injections among others. Proxima b’s atmosphere can be corroded by space weather. This is because hydrogen and oxygen, two molecules that make up water, are stripped away. Furthermore, RT reported that frequent stellar eruptions deplete the oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
Vladimir Airapetian, one of the lead authors of a research paper about Proxima b, said that we must first find stars which will serve as ‘best parents’ for us to find an exoplanet to develop and sustain life. Experts have long considered smaller and cooler stars like red dwarfs as candidates for habitability . However, red dwarfs are more prone to powerful stellar eruptions. Stephen Hawking, famous astrophysicist, collaborated with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to launch the Proxima b flyby mission.