Proxima b, the closest-known exoplanet to Earth, is unlikely to host life, says a team of astronomers at the University of Sydney. According to the findings of their study, published on 9 December in the Astrophysical Journal, the scientists observed the planet and the Proxima Centauri red dwarf star using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope (ASKAP).
They discovered that the exoplanet’s habitable zone, which astronomers presume may contain liquid water and consequently could potentially support life, is bombarded with radiation.
Researchers say Proxima Centauri emits vast amount of ionising radiation, which is capable of destroying all life on the exoplanet.
"Given Proxima Centauri is a cool, small red-dwarf star, it means this habitable zone is very close to the star - much closer in than Mercury is to our Sun. What our research shows is this makes the planets very vulnerable to dangerous ionising radiation that could effectively sterilise them", said Dr Andrew Zic, the study leader.
Our planet is also bombarded with radiation; however, unlike Proxima b, the Earth has a powerful magnetic field that shields the planet and its inhabitants from intense solar plasma. Dr Zic noted that red dwarf stars such as Proxima Centauri are not the best places to search for life.