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Scouting Alpha Centauri for Possible Hazards

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Chandra Scouts Nearest Star System for Possible Hazards


In humanity’s search for life outside our Solar System, one of the best places scientists have considered is Alpha Centauri, a system containing the three nearest stars beyond our Sun.

A new study that has involved monitoring of Alpha Centauri for more than a decade by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory provides encouraging news about one key aspect of planetary habitability. It indicates that any planets orbiting the two brightest stars in the Alpha Cen system are likely not being pummeled by large amounts of X-ray radiation from their host stars.  X-rays and related Space Weather effects are bad for unprotected life, directly through high radiation doses and indirectly through stripping away planetary atmospheres (a fate thought to have been suffered by Mars in our own Solar System).

arrow3.gif  Read More: NASA


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A chance to get a close look at the system is coming soon, in a decade Alpha Centauri A will pass in front of a more distant star and act as a gravitational lens, distorting the light of the star behind it. How the light from the distant star flickers and mutates over time will provide a wealth of information about any inner planets.

By that time, ESO's 39-meter Extremely Large Telescope is expected to be operating and capable of observing the distortion in detail. 


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