Exoplanets, similar to Earth, which were earlier thought to be capable of nurturing alien life might actually be uninhabitable due to these dangerous solar storms.
Scientists have been concerned about the mood-swings of the Sun this year. The Sun is entering the phase where it reaches the peak of solar activity in 2023 and as a result it has been blasting solar storms on a regular basis towards the Earth. While we have not seen a fearsome Carrington level event so far that damages power grids and more, the fear of a similar solar storm remains within the scientists as it can do an unthinkable amount of damage. But it turns out that planets outside the solar system which are also called exoplanets are suffering from something far worse. This recent information has forced many to rethink whether the Earth-like planets that were earlier thought to be capable of nurturing alien life are actually uninhabitable.
New research makes scientists rethink the possibility of alien life on exoplanets
A research published by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society has given scientists a different perspective on habitable exoplanets. Earth-like exoplanets are essentially those planets which lie within the habitable zone of a star system and are thought to have the right temperature and necessary elements to nurture life. NASA has found many such planets across the galaxy and beyond. However, these planets might not be as habitable as we think.
The research focused on one of the most Earth-like exoplanets, Kepler-438b, using the available data. Kepler-438b is located 472.9 lightyears away from the Earth and orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone of a red dwarf, Kepler-438. The research claims that Kepler-438b has been stripped of its nutrients and any life-giving elements due to the radiation from the red dwarf. This solar storm, or more accurately stellar storm might be far more powerful and dangerous than the ones we experience on Earth.
“Unlike the Earth’s relatively quiet sun, Kepler-438 emits strong flares every few hundred days, each one stronger than the most powerful recorded flare on the Sun. It is likely that these flares are associated with coronal mass ejections, which could have serious damaging effects on the habitability of the planet,” Dr David Armstrong, Lead researcher of the study told New Scientist.
“If the planet, Kepler-438b, has a magnetic field like the Earth, it may be shielded from some of the effects. However, if it does not, or the flares are strong enough, it could have lost its atmosphere, be irradiated by extra dangerous radiation and be a much harsher place for life to exist,” he added.
Luckily for Earth, we are protected by our atmosphere and in particular the magnetosphere. If we did not have its support, life on Earth would probably not have been possible either.