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Astronomers Detect Strange ‘Radio Signals’ Coming From Dwarf Star 11 Light Years Away

Dwarf stars have been shown to have planets orbiting the habitable, or ‘goldilocks,’ zone, as is the case with the recently discovered TRAPPIST-1

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Dwarf stars sending strange signals to earth. Pixabay
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  • The signals came from a red dwarf star, around 2,800 times dimmer than the Sun
  • The possibility that signals came from extraterrestrial life cannot be ruled out yet, said an astrobiologist
  • The signals could have also come from some kind of man-made object in space, such as a satellite

London, July 18, 2017: To the delight of those trying to find life beyond our solar system, a team of astronomers has claimed to have picked up “strange signals” emanating from a star 11 light years away.

The signals were detected by researchers from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico who are studying red dwarf stars.

On May 12 this year, the team observed mysterious radio signals emanating from a star called “Ross 128”.

“We realized that there were some very peculiar signals in the 10-minute dynamic spectrum that we obtained from ‘Ross 128’ (GJ 447), observed May 12,” wrote professor Abel Mendez, planetary astrobiologist, and director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico in a blog post.

“In case you are wondering, the recurrent aliens hypothesis is at the bottom of many other better explanations,” Mendez added.

ALSO READ: NASA Spacecraft circling Jupiter Reveals Beauty of Solar System’s Biggest Planetary Storm

However, the source of the mysterious signals still eludes the team.

“We do not know the origin of these signals but there are three main possible explanations: they could be emissions from ‘Ross 128’ similar to Type II solar flares, emissions from another object in the field of view of ‘Ross 128′, or just burst from a high orbit satellite since low orbit satellites are quick to move out of the field of view,” Mendez added.

The signals are probably too dim for other radio telescopes in the world and are currently under calibration.

“Therefore, we have a mystery here and the three main explanations are as good as any at this moment,” the professor said.

Dwarf stars have been shown to have planets orbiting the habitable, or ‘goldilocks,’ zone, as is the case with the recently discovered TRAPPIST-1, RT reported. (IANS)

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Habitability Of Surrounding Planets Affected By Super Flares Of Red Dwarfs: NASA

Red dwarfs -- especially young red dwarfs -- are active stars, producing flares blast out energy

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Wintertime ice growth in Arctic sea slows long-term decline: NASA. Flcikr

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found that violent outbursts, or superflares, from red dwarf stars could affect the habitability of any planets orbiting it.

Young low-mass stars flare much more frequently and more energetically than old stars and middle-age stars like our Sun, the findings of the study published in the Astrophysical Journal showed.

The findings are based on observations of the flare frequency of 12 red dwarfs.

Hubble is observing such stars through a large programme called HAZMAT — Habitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time.

“M dwarf” is the astronomical term for a red dwarf star — the smallest, most abundant and longest-living type of star in our galaxy.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
Hubble Telescope. Flickr

The HAZMAT programme is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs at three different ages — young, intermediate, and old.

“The goal of the HAZMAT programme is to help understand the habitability of planets around low-mass stars,” explained the programme’s principal investigator, Evgenya Shkolnik from Arizona State University.

“These low-mass stars are critically important in understanding planetary atmospheres,” Shkolnik added.

Stellar flares from red dwarfs are particularly bright in ultraviolet wavelengths, compared with Sun-like stars.

Red dwarf  planet
Artist’s view of planets transiting red dwarf star in TRAPPIST-1 system. Flickr

Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity makes the telescope very valuable for observing these flares.

The flares are believed to be powered by intense magnetic fields that get tangled by the roiling motions of the stellar atmosphere.

When the tangling gets too intense, the fields break and reconnect, unleashing tremendous amounts of energy.

The team found that the flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — just about 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older.

This younger age is when terrestrial planets are forming around their stars.

Red dwarf
This illustration shows a red dwarf star orbited by a hypothetical exoplanet. NASA

About three-quarters of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy are red dwarfs. Most of the galaxy’s “habitable-zone” planets — planets orbiting their stars at a distance where temperatures are moderate enough for liquid water to exist on their surface — orbit red dwarfs.

In fact, the nearest star to our Sun, a red dwarf named Proxima Centauri, has an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone.

Also Read: NASA Plans For Science Payloads For Delivery To Moon

However, red dwarfs — especially young red dwarfs — are active stars, producing flares that could blast out so much energy that it disrupts and possibly strips off the atmospheres of these fledgling planets. (IANS)