A NASA study has suggested that a recently discovered Earth-sized planet, dubbed Proxima b, may not actually harbour life. Further, the research claims that the planet is exposed to frequent stellar eruptions despite being present in the ‘habitable zone’ of its host star.
Scientists usually search for life in habitable zones, some regions around stars where conditions can allow liquid water to pool on a planet’s surface.
Earlier, when Proxima B was discovered, scientists had hopes that we may be able to find life outside our own Earth. However, a study published in the journal ‘The Astrophysical Journal Letters’ said that some of the habitable zones are exposed from stellar eruptions from young red dwarf stars.
In order to determine habitable zone of a star, scientists consider the amount of light and heat it can emit. Apart from visible light and heat, stars also emit X-ray and ultraviolet radiation, and produce stellar eruptions such as flares and coronal mass ejections – which are collectively known as space weather.
As far as Proxima b is concerned, scientists expect that it is subjected to torrents of X-ray and extreme ultraviolent radiation from superflares taking place roughly every two hours.
Moreover, scientists have estimated that oxygen would escape Proxima b's atmosphere in 10 million years.
Apart from that, intense magnetic activity and stellar wind - the continuous flow of charged particles from a star - exacerbate the harsh space weather conditions.
Thus, scientists concluded that Proxima b in very unlikely to be habitable.