Astrosat, Chandra and Hubble jointly detect massive cosmic explosion on Proxima Centauri

Jul 21, 2017 17:01 IST

Astrosat, Chandra and Hubble jointly detect massive cosmic explosion on Proxima CentauriThree space-based observatories Astrosat, Chandra, Hubble Space Telescope and a ground-based observatory HARPS detected a massive coronal explosion on the nearest planet-hosting star Proxima Centauri.

The chance detection on 31 May 2017 came during a planned joint multi-wavelength simultaneous observational campaign by these observatories studying the Proxima Centauri group of stars, which hosts an Earth-like habitable planet, Proxima Centaur b, orbiting within its habitable zone.

The team is now investigating the characteristics of this flaring event to understand the propagation of such energetic events and effects on the orbiting planetary world.

Astrosat is a multi-wavelength astronomy mission built by a consortium of institutes across India led by ISRO Satellite Centre, TIFR Mumbai, IIA Bengaluru, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Space Applications Centre in collaboration with University of Leicester (UK) and the Canadian Space Agency.

The Chandra programme is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The flight operations and the Chandra Science are controlled by the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy.

Key highlights

The massive coronal explosion has sent out powerful solar flare having energy of 10-raised-to-30 ergs, about 100 times a typical solar flare.

Such powerful flaring may have produced large radiations and particles, which may significantly influence the atmosphere of the Proxima Centauri b and affect its habitability.

The habitability of Proxima Centauri and its ability to sustain its atmosphere and water in liquid form may get affected due to abnormal planetary atmosphere heating due absorption of the high-energy photons like the ultraviolet and X-ray photons released by the coronal explosion.

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About Proxima Centauri

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, a small low-mass star. It is the nearest-known star to the Sun.

It is about 4.25 light-years from the Sun in the constellation of Centaurus.

The star was discovered in 1915 by the Scottish astronomer Robert Innes.

With an apparent magnitude of 11.05, it is too faint to be seen with the naked eye.

Because of Proxima Centauri's proximity to Earth, its angular diameter can be measured directly. It is about one-seventh the diameter of the Sun.

In 2016, the European Southern Observatory announced the discovery of Proxima b, a planet orbiting the star at a distance of roughly 0.05 AU (7.5 million km) with an orbital period of approximately 11.2 Earth days.

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