Archive for the ‘Flares’ Tag

Proxima B – Life in the Habitable Zone?   26 comments

Historic Potentially Earth-Like World Proxima B

The historic discovery of potentially Earth- like world Proxima-b was announced 24 August 2016. Orbiting Proxima Centauri, a Red Dwarf star in the habitable zone and the nearest star to our own Sun Proxima-b marks not only the closest alien planet ever found but also with the potential to be habitable.

Proxima b

This artist’s impression shows what the sky might look like on Proxima Centauri b if the planet has a surface. The exoplanet orbits the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, currently the closest star to the solar system at 4.2 light-years. The other two members of the Alpha Centauri triple, Alpha Centauri A and B, would appear in the sky, too.
ESO / M. Kornmesser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this proves to be the case, then there is no shortage of time for some form of life to originate based on the fact that red dwarf stars such as Proxima Centauri burn for trillions of years.

From the point of view of the average Earth-based visitor stopping by for a summer vacation, Proxima-b runs the risk of being a rather boring holiday resort. The sun-tan would be awesome, not so much so the destruction of the biological cells exposed to the intensely dodgy UV radiation that is present. Combined with the prospect of heavy duty sun-screen to protect from the sun’s constant bombardment of energy flares bouncing around the planetary surface probably wouldn’t be classed as entirely awesome either. On top of which the Proxima Centauri flares would also banish any hope of using mobile phones, tablets, X-boxes or any other such devices thanks to its electronics-disabling qualities. so no ET calling home and definitely no Skype!

Proxima b _Bustle DarkBAlthough it is a tidally locked planet– roasting hot on its star- facing side, freezing cold on the other, there is also enough wind around in the atmosphere to circulate the heat, balancing out the extreme temperatures that would otherwise exist. None-the-less a visit to the the planetary darkside, where it is bathed in perpetual night could prove to be the safest, and possibly the only option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately astronomers are choosing to be particularly pessimistic about this little world following the initial euphoria and have currently decided it is probably a dead, airless rock that will never harbour life due to it’s close proximity sun (20x nearer than Earth to the Sun) creating a risk of it boiling off the water and thereby stripping away the planet’s atmosphere. Researchers its oxygen will be gone in about 10 million years. Life on Earth took billions of years to develop.

Young M Dwarf StarsYoung M dwarf stars can unleash dangerous flares, (“planet-frying radiation”) that strip off atmosphere-forming oxygen spelling doom for closely orbiting planets. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / S. Wiessinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

proxima bImage: NASA Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab

However hope lives eternal. Theoretically it is possible life could advance to endure the high levels of radiation, by altering the worst of Proxima Centauri’s emissions into inoffensive visible light. We know this is plausible, because due to a process known as biofluorescence this —has already happened on many occasions on Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimately It is expected that the 2018 launch of The James Webb Space Telescope, will provide answers to the critical question of whether there is any chance at all that Proxima b is capable of supporting life.

Proxima b – Habitable ‘Ocean Planet’??

Another possibility is the Proxima b could be an ocean world whose entire surface consists of a liquid ocean. This may bear a similarity to the Jupiter and Saturn moons that are icy worlds with subsurface oceans.

On the other hand the more optimistic researchers suggest that Proxima b may in fact be habitable after all. So don’t put the suitcases back in the attic just yet intrepid cosmic holiday makers! If Proxima b had in reality formed further out from it’s sun than its current position this would also offer a high possibility of there being water. This idea is based on the outer realms of planetary systems being more likely to form ice. If it then moved inwards for a up closer and more personal relationship with its sun then this ice could melt and form seas. Maybe 😉

Sea

Proxima b – A Desert World??

be8a53dc8479400431b0270a3d2ef730But it still seems most likely, according to Victoria Meadows (University of Washington), that this exoplanet is a desert world since the radiation bombarding it would almost certainly have evaporated the majority of the water. This process could have collected the oxygen and hydrogen in the water and created an atmosphere rich in oxygen. Then again it could a 2nd Venus with an atmosphere rich in Carbon Dioxide, or even another Uranus or Neptune.

The Other Closest Habitable-Zone Worlds

If all else fails cosmic holiday makers may wish to try some of the nearbyProxima Wolf 3, potentially habitable exoplanet worlds, for size….: Kapteyn b (13 light-years away) and Wolf 1061 c (14 light-years). Both planets are just over half again as wide as Earth, with minimum masses of 4 to 5 Earths, and both are in their stars’ habitable zones. Wolf 1061 c does not look at all hopeful in terms of habitability. But Kapteyn b looks good. It’s about 3½ times farther from its sun than Proxima b is from its sun so potentially it could be far enough out of reach of its sun’s rather violent output to provide a half decent holiday resort!

 

References:

www.skyandtelescope.com

www.gizmodo.com

www.space.com

www.scinews.com

www.csmonitor.com

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Wolfie Chew-Sticks! You Turned the Air BLUE!!!!   35 comments

Interstellar Tourist Alert! Blue Auroras on Mars!

Don’t Miss This Fantastic Opportunity to see “The Southern Lights” of Mars!

Mars blue aurora wolf_Image credits (background): NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and CSW/DB.

Theoretically it should be impossible for Mars to experience auroras as unlike Earth it no longer has a global magnetic field. On Mars it ceased to exist 3.5 billion years ago. However, in the main in the Southern hemisphere an assortment of “increased magnetic fields” have survived in the surface. These are known as “crustal magnetic anomalies,” and it would seem that these are capable of sparking auroras.

Auroral Glowing Blue Sky_

Sunrise/Sunset Auroras lighting the Wolves of MarsAurora’s appear on a relatively frequent basis after periods of intense solar flare-ups during the life of a solar cycle which on Mars causes  a beautiful, glowing blue sky.  For the intrepid interstellar tourist chasing the Martian lights jumping out of bed bright and early is recommended as they are best caught just before sunrise.

Alternatively for the lazy, late-rising tourist who probably prefers a Martian cocktail on the blue-soaked beaches whilst lounging in a deck chair watching the sun go down, just after sunset is the ideal time to catch the spectacular Martian lights.

  •   On Mars, aurorae also occur in the visible range.
  •   Carbon dioxide in Mars’s atmosphere means skies glow intense deep blue.Southern Skies glow an intense deep blue

Mars’s atmosphere consists mainly of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Consequently the southern skies glow an intense deep blue. On Earth the oxygenated atmosphere causes auroras in shades of red and green – the Northern Lights. It is still possible to see such colours, though in far more subdued tones, on Mars too.

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The research also hopes to help us understand:

  •   More about the atmospheres of other planets and their emissions, and also that of Earth.
  •   The evolution of the Martian atmosphere
  •   Difference in mass between Mars and Earth
  •   Assisting in the ultimate discovery of habitable new worlds

Blue aurorae in Mars’ sky visible to the naked eye_Background Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and CSW/DBBrave new worlds millions of miles from home

”Prime view of the aurora may seem trivial. And yet, on cold, barren planet millions of miles away, one beautiful reminder of home could make a world’s difference.” (Quote Credit: motherboard.vice.com)

Sources:

The Sky at Night
NASA.gov
Motherboard.vice.com
Astronomy Now.com
Washington Post