Bad space weather may make life impossible near Proxima Centauri

If you look up in the southern sky you can see the “pointer” stars, pointing towards the Southern Cross. One of these pointers is Alpha Centauri, which is actually a pair of Sun-like stars that are too close together to tell apart by eye.

There is a third member of the Alpha Centauri system as well: Proxima Centauri (Proxima Cen for short), which circles the central two stars in a wide orbit. This is the Sun’s nearest neighbour, at a distance of just 4.2 light years.

It is possible one of Proxima Cen’s planets is suitable for life. However, we recently detected the signature of fierce space weather from Proxima Cen, which implies an orbiting planet could be blasted with hazardous particles and magnetic fields.

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