Earth-like planet maybe not so hospitable after all, thanks to blasts of radiation
Mark A. Garlick/University of Warwick

Earth-like planet may be not so hospitable after all, thanks to blasts of radiation

Earlier this year, astronomers reported discovering a handful of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars. One of them, a presumably rocky orb dubbed Kepler-438b, orbits a red dwarf star and may be just a bit warmer than Earth, those researchers suggested. Now, another team finds that the planet may be hostile to life because it has no atmosphere, thanks to supersized solar flares that blast the planet every few hundred days, the researchers report online before print in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The flares are about 10 times as powerful as those ever recorded on our sun, the team estimates. And because Kepler-438b orbits just 25 million kilometers from its star (about half the distance of Mercury’s closest approach to our sun), that’s a recipe for disaster for life as we know it, the researchers say: With little or no atmosphere, the planet’s surface would be exposed to harsh x-ray and ultraviolet radiation, not to mention floods of charged particles like those in our solar wind.