The Future Shrinks

The exoplanet closest to Earth receives flares from its star that makes it incompatible with life.

If the Sun were to suffer some kind of a catastrophe, our gaze would immediately turn to the extrasolar planet (or exoplanet) closest to us. In fact, the discovery of this planet in 2016, which also revealed that it is located in the habitable zone of its star (the area where there may be liquid water), immediately stimulated the plans for the first interstellar missions in history. But the future has just shrunk. Next B is subjected to some flares of its star so violent and lethal that its possibilities of harboring life have been drastically reduced, if not completely annulled. It's bad news, just in case we needed some more.

A good question for the Trivial would be what is the closest star to our Solar System? Three centuries ago, the correct answer would have been Alpha Centauri, visible with the naked eye from the southern hemisphere and the brightest star of the Centaur constellation. It is also one of the most beautiful figures that the night sky has to show to human perplexity. That answer stopped being exact in 1752, when the French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille discovered that Alpha Centauri was not a star, but a binary system in which each star revolves around the other with a period of 80 terrestrial years. And either of these two would have returned to the wrong answer from 1915, when Robert Innes discovered that the system was not double, but triple, and that it was the third component, Proxima Centauri, which was really closer to the Sun.

Red Dwarf Is the Most Abundant and Long-Lived Star of The Universe

Next is the red dwarf - the smallest stars that live from burning hydrogen by nuclear fusion. And, like many other red dwarfs, Próxima is a shining star, an intrinsically dim star, but occasionally (perhaps every two or three months), emits a flare capable of frying all life on the planets orbiting it. These "superfulguraciones" can multiply their brightness by 70, and they are much more violent than those experienced by the Sun on great occasions. This is what has just been detected in Próxima, our nearest star neighbor. And the flares are such that they will have sterilized almost any life form imaginable that could inhabit its surface. Or, more likely, they will have already prevented their appearance.