Scientists had hoped a planet known as Proxima b could host life as temperatures were mild enough for water to remain a liquid
An artist's impression of a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System CREDIT: AFP
Hopes of finding life on our nearest Earth-like planet have been dashed after scientists revealed it is being bombarded with radiation. The rocky planet - which orbits our closest star, Proxima Centauri - has been a source of considerable interest for scientists who thought it had the right conditions to harbour life. In astronomical terms, the planet known as Proxima b is just next door to our solar system at a distance slightly exceeding four light-years, or 25 trillion miles. Research had previously suggested Proxima b is in the “habitable zone” of the star it orbits, where temperatures were mild enough for water to remain a liquid. Now, however, scientists face having to go further afield in their search for life beyond our solar system after it emerged the planet was inhospitable. A new analysis of solar radio bursts and Stella flares surrounding Proxima Centauri, which is a red dwarf, found that Proxima b lies too close to it and subsequently endures punishing space weather.
Despite being closer to Proxima Centauri than Mercury is to the Sun, scientists believe Proxima b is in the habitable zone where it receives similar amounts of heat and light to Earth because the red dwarf is small and has a significantly cooler temperature.
It was hoped when Proxima b was discovered four years ago that the planet would be able to enjoy a climate as benign as Earth.
However, Dr. Andrew Zic, the lead author of the latest study, published in the Astrophysical Journal, said: "What our research shows is this makes the planets very vulnerable to dangerous ionizing radiation that could effectively sterilize them."
This problem does not plague life on Earth in the same way because the hot clouds of ionized particles emitted by the Sun are too far away and our planet is shielded by a powerful planetary magnetic field.
Dr. Zic, of Macquarie University, Sydney, added: "This is probably bad news on the space weather front.
"It seems likely the galaxy's most common stars - red dwarfs - won't be great places to find life as we know it."
The second-closest exoplanet which scientists believe could harbour life is known as Barnard’s Star b, as it orbits Barnard’s Star, six light-years away.
There are now more than 4,000 known exoplanets that revolve around stars beyond our solar system.
Proxima b is around 4.7 million miles from its star and takes around 11 days to complete an orbit, compared to the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun, which is 93 million miles away.