ISRO’s Astrosat, NASA’s Chandra and Hubble detect dangerous flares on Proxima Centauri

Picture of Proxima Centauri taken by Hubble. Image courtesy of NASA.

Three space observatories – the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Astrosat, NASA’s Chandra observatory and the Hubble telescope – have detected dangerous flares on Proxima Centauri, the nearest known star to our sun. These flares could have an effect on a nearby earth-like planet, Proxima Centauri b, thereby ruling it out as a possible habitable planet.

The discovery was made as a result of a joint programme between India, the U.S.A, Germany and Chile,  which began on 31 May 2017 to investigate Proxima Centauri b. Its purpose is study Proxima Centauri and Proxima Centauri b in order to draw comparisons between our sun and the earth.

To do this, Proxima Centauri and its planet are observed jointly by Astrosat, India’s first multi-wavelength space observatory Astrosat, NASA’s X-ray space observatory Chandra, the Hubble Telescope, and Europe’s High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) observatory located in Chile. The data is then studied by institutes in India, Germany and the U.S.A.

Latest findings have detected an exceptionally strong flare on Proxima Centauri, which has been described as an explosion.

In describing the flare, Prof. K.P. Singh, Senior Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, said, “If a flare like the one observed on Proxima Centauri occurs on our Sun this might have a devastating effect on power-grid, and cause interruption of broadcast and electricity. It would also affect the electronic instruments as well as astronauts in space, cause excess UV radiation in space, and produce an atmospheric display of lights near the poles.”

The team is now investigating the characteristics of this flaring event  Said Prof. Jürgen Schmitt of Universität Hamburg, Germany, “such powerful and frequent flaring events may produce large radiations and particles which may significantly influence the atmosphere of the Proxima Centauri b and affect its habitability”.

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