Record torch on Sun’s closest neighbor: The Tribune India

New York, April 22nd

Scientists have discovered the largest torch ever recorded from the Sun’s closest neighbor, the star Proxima Centauri.

Proxima Centauri is a small but powerful star. Located just four light-years or more than 20 trillion miles from our own sun, it is home to at least two planets, one of which may look something like Earth.It’s also a “red dwarf,” the name for a class of stars that are unusually dainty and dark, explained Meredith MacGregor, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

For the new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the team observed Proxima Centauri for 40 hours with nine telescopes on the ground and in space.

They found that Proxima Centauri emitted a torch or burst of radiation that begins near the surface of a star and is believed to be one of the most violent in the galaxy. The torch was roughly 100 times more powerful than any similar torch seen from Earth’s sun. Over time, this energy can destroy a planet’s atmosphere and even expose life forms to deadly radiation.

“The star went from normal to 14,000 times brighter when viewed in ultraviolet wavelengths over a period of a few seconds,” said MacGregor.

The team’s results suggest new physics that could change the way scientists think about star flares. Nor are they a good sign of a mushy organism brave enough to live near the volatile star.

Instruments included the Hubble Space Telescope, Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Five of them recorded the massive torch from Proxima Centauri and recorded the event as it produced a wide spectrum of radiation.

The technique yielded one of the most profound anatomies of a torch from any star in the galaxy. Although it didn’t produce much visible light, it produced a tremendous surge in both ultraviolet and radioactive or “millimeter” radiation.

“In the past, we didn’t know that stars could flare up in the millimeter range, so this was the first time we looked for millimeter flares,” MacGregor said.

These millimeter signals, MacGregor added, could help researchers gather more information about how stars create flares. IANS