Scientists have spotted one of the largest stellar flares ever recorded in our galaxy. The jets of plasma shot outward from the sun’s nearest neighbor, the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri. The flare, which was around 100 times more powerful than any experienced in our solar system, could change the way scientists think about solar radiation and alien life.
Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf — the smallest, dimmest and most common type of main sequence stars in the galaxy — located approximately 4.25 light-years from Earth. Its mass is only one-eighth of the sun’s, and it is orbited by two exoplanets. One of these planets, Proxima Centauri b, is considered to be Earth-like and lies within the star’s habitable zone — the distance from a star that could support the development of life, according to the researchers.
In a new study, researchers used nine ground and orbital telescopes — including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — to closely monitor Proxima Centauri for a total of 40 hours over several months in 2019. On May 1, 2019, the team captured the mega flare, which shone for just 7 seconds and was mainly visible in the ultraviolet spectrum.