The one planet that we have found that is most like Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to huge amounts of radiation, according to new research by the University of Warwick. The atmosphere of Kepler 438b, which was said to resemble earth in its early stages, has been stripped away due to the radiation that came from a superflaring red dwarf star, Kepler-438.
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The planet is much closer to its sun than we are to Earth, so this shouldn't come as a warning.
These superflares occur every so often and are about 10 times more powerful than those that have ever been recorded on the surface of the sun. They have about as much energy as 100 billion megatons of TNT.
According to astronomy.com, the superflares themselves were highly unlikely to have an impact on Kepler 438b's atmosphere, it was instead something known as coronal mass ejection (CME) that has caused the problem.
The lead researcher on the project, David Armstrong of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group, said: “Unlike the Earth’s relatively quiet Sun, Kepler-438 emits strong flares every few hundred days, each one stronger than the most powerful recorded flare on the Sun. It is likely that these flares are associated with coronal mass ejections, which could have serious damaging effects on the habitability of the planet."
He went on to explain: “If the planet, Kepler-438b, has a magnetic field like the Earth, it may be shielded from some of the effects. However, if it does not, or the flares are strong enough, it could have lost its atmosphere, be irradiated by extra dangerous radiation and be a much harsher place for life to exist.”
Chloe Pugh of the University of Warwick’s Center for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, said: “The presence of an atmosphere is essential for the development of life. While flares themselves are unlikely to have a significant impact on an atmosphere as a whole, there is another more dangerous phenomenon associated with powerful flares, known as a coronal mass ejection.
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“Coronal mass ejections are where a huge amount of plasma is hurled outwards from the Sun, and there is no reason why they should not occur on other active stars as well. The likelihood of a coronal mass ejection occurring increases with the occurrence of powerful flares, and large coronal mass ejections have the potential to strip away any atmosphere that a close-in planet like Kepler-438b might have, rendering it uninhabitable. With little atmosphere, the planet would also be subject to harsh UV and X-ray radiation from the superflares, along with charged particle radiation, all of which are damaging to life.”