Stellar flares can reduce a planet’s habitability

New insights into the habitability of exoplanets.

In a new study, a team led by research scientist Dimitra Atri of the Center for Space Science at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD)presented the process of analyzing flare emission data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) observatory. By calculated the erosion rates of planetary atmospheres, they identified which stars are most likely to host habitable exoplanets.

Scientists found that more frequent, lower energy flares significantly affect an exoplanet’s atmosphere than less frequent higher energy flares. They also determined how different types of stars produce extreme ultraviolet radiation (XUV) through stellar flares and how nearby planets are affected.

Atri said, “This research provides new insights into the habitability of exoplanets, as the effects of stellar activity were not well understood. This study also highlights the need for better numerical modeling of atmospheric escape—how planets release atmospheric gasses into space—as it can lead to the erosion of atmosphere and the diminishment of the planet’s habitability.”

“Given the proximity of exoplanets to host stars, it is vital to understand how space weather events tied to those stars can affect the habitability of the exoplanet. The next research step would be to expand our data set to analyze stellar flares from a larger variety of stars to see the long-term effects of stellar activity and to identify more potentially habitable exoplanets.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/slaa166

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