Flares of such magnitude might eventually obliterate a planetary atmosphere, sterilizing the landscape. Lose the atmosphere, and liquid surface water could not exist on Proxima b. “There are a lot of factors we still don’t understand. I hesitate to immediately squash it (the possibility of life),” Meredith MacGregor of the Carnegie Institution said to media.
The flare in artistic vision
Proxima b, a rocky world about the size of Earth, and inside the habitable zone, is our nearest exoplanet, about twenty five trillion miles away or 4 light-years from us. Proxima Centauri’s system doesn’t seem to show many signs of life as we know it. Traditionally, the habitable zone is defined as the region around a star where temperatures are just right for liquid water to form on the surface. With the highest chance of relatively Earth-like conditions, planets within these zones are the best places to start searching for potential alien life. Red dwarfs are more active, meaning they would bombard tightly-orbiting planets with X-rays and ultraviolet radiation, stripping away any atmosphere they may otherwise have.