New York, April 22 (IANS) Scientists have noticed the largest glare ever recorded by the nearest solar neighbor, the star Proxime Centauri.
Proxima Centauri is a small but powerful star. It is located just four light-years or more than 20 trillion miles from our own Sun and hosts at least two planets, one of which may look something like Earth.
It’s also “red dwarf,” a name for a class of stars that are unusually tiny and muted, explained Meredith MacGregor, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
For the new research, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the team observed Proxima Centauri for 40 hours using nine telescopes on earth and in space.
They found that Proxima Centauri has ejected a rocket or burst of radiation that begins near the surface of the star, which ranks among the most violent seen anywhere in the galaxy. The rocket was approximately 100 times more powerful than any similar rocket seen from the Earth’s sun. Over time, such energy can take away the planet’s atmosphere and even expose life forms to deadly radiation.
“The star has become normal up to 14,000 times brighter when viewed in ultraviolet wavelengths ranging from a few seconds,” MacGregor said.
The team’s findings suggest new physics that could change the way scientists think about stellar flashes. They also do not bode well for any squishy organism brave enough to live near a volatile star.
The instruments included the Hubble Space Telescope, a large millimeter array of Atacama and NASA’s transit exoplanet satellite. The five of them recorded a massive torch from Proxime Centauri, recording the event because it produced a wide range of radiation.
The technique provided one of the deepest flash anatomies of any star in the galaxy. Although it did not produce much visible light, it generated a huge wave of both ultraviolet and radio, or “millimeter” radiation.
“In the past, we didn’t know that stars could flash in the millimeter range, so this is the first time we’ve looked for millimeter flashes,” MacGregor said.
These millimeter signals, MacGregor added, could help researchers gather more information about how stars generate flashes.
rvt / ksk /