Life on exoplanets: powerful stellar flares will help to detect it

Life on exoplanets will help detect stellar flares

Powerful stellar flares occurring in the Universe not only do not interfere with the existence of life on exoplanets, but also make it easier to detect. This is the conclusion reached by the researchers at Northwestern University. Stellar flares are recognized as harsh and unpredictable, but they do not interfere with the formation of life forms. They are flashes of magnetic waves.

Beyond Earth, such flares could disrupt radio communications and disable satellite systems. In the Universe, such phenomena deplete and destroy the atmospheric layers, penetrate into the atmospheres of planets, damaging their surfaces.


The scientists combined three-dimensional atmospheric chemistry and climate modeling with observable data on outbursts from distant stars and discovered that stellar flares may play an important role in the long-term evolution of a planet's atmosphere and habitability.

An astrophysicist Howard Chen noted that he and his colleagues compared the chemical composition of a planet that is often exposed to such outbreaks with the chemical composition of planets where such outbreaks do not occur. The result showed that regular exposure brings the composition of the planet to its chemical equilibrium.

They cannot be an obstacle to the formation and existence of life forms. In some cases, such outbreaks do create torch destruction of atmospheric ozone, but there is still room for life on the planet's surface. Such flares have minimal impact on the Earth.


The scientists compare the Sun to a gentle giant, since it is not as active as young bright stars, and the Earth has a strong magnetic field that destroys solar winds. But most of the known exoplanets that could be habitable were much less fortunate.

For life to exist on them, they must be close to their star, in which case the water on them will not freeze and evaporate. Science has always viewed space weather as a destructive factor causing significant damage. But a new research proves that in some cases, space weather can detect signs of important gases, which indicates possible biological processes.

Reference: “Persistence of flare-driven atmospheric chemistry rocky habitable zone worlds”21 December 2020, Nature Astronomy. DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01264-1