Are we too late? Any life on 'Earth-like' planet Proxima b may have been wiped out by a massive solar flare last year

Mail Online | 3/24/2017 | Phoebe Weston For Mailonline
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'Earth-like' Proxima b was thought to be one of our best hopes for finding alien life when it was discovered two years ago.

At just four light years away, experts believed that future generations of super-fast spacecraft could travel to the mysterious planet and explore its surface.


But it seems we may be too late to find life.

A new study suggests that a huge solar flare last year wiped any trace of aliens from the planet that scientists have described as an 'Earth 2.0'.

Peak - Flare - Proxima - Centauri - Times

At its peak, the flare from Proxima Centauri was 1,000 times brighter than the star normally is, and 10 times brighter than the largest flares from our sun.

Astronomers believe Proxima b may have been hit with 4,000 times more deadly radiation than solar flares unleashed on the Earth.

Proxima - B - Earth - Distance - Star

Proxima b, dubbed 'a second Earth', is the right distance from its star to host liquid water, which means it has the potential for alien life.

It is the closest exoplanet we could ever discover, and experts have previously said missions to the planet to search for signs of life could be feasible 'within our lifetime'.

Proxima - Centauri - Dim - Dwarf - Star

Because Proxima Centauri is a dim red dwarf star radiating much less heat than the sun, it still occupies the 'habitable zone' where temperatures are mild enough to permit liquid surface water.

The temperature on the surface of the planet could be between -90° and 30° Celsius (-130 and 86 Fahrenheit).

Researchers - Life - Surface - Rays - X-rays

Researchers already knew that any life that evolved on its surface would be hardened against powerful ultraviolet rays and X-rays from Proxima Centauri but it seems solar flares could prove too fearsome to survive.

Stellar flares happen when a shift in the star's magnetic field accelerates electrons to speeds approaching that of light.

Electrons - Plasma

The accelerated electrons interact with the highly charged plasma that makes up most of the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Mail Online
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