In May 2019 astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have detected the largest flare ever seen from any star, including our Sun, on the nearest star, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri.
The detection was 100 times stronger than the Sun’s typical flares.
In May 2019, Proxima Centauri ejected a violent flare that lasted just seven seconds, but generated a surge in both ultraviolet and millimeter wavelengths. The flare was characterized by a strong, impulsive spike never before seen at these wavelengths. The event was recorded by five of the nine telescopes involved in the study, including the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in ultraviolet, and ALMA in millimeter wavelengths. “The star went from normal to 14,000 times brighter when seen in ultraviolet wavelengths over the span of a few seconds,” said MacGregor, adding that similar behavior was captured in millimeter wavelengths by ALMA at the same time.
Red dwarfs are known to issue very powerful flares, a high solar activity that would likely make life as we know it impossible on any Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone, since the star’s small size and dimness requires that zone to be so close to the star. This powerful flare only cements this reality. The exoplanets that have been found circling Proxima Century will therefore not be great places for life, though building the first interplanetary colony there might make sense.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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