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Red Dwarfs Could Sterilize Alien Worlds of Life

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the not-very-habitable-zone dept.

Space 76

astroengine (1577233) writes "Red dwarf stars — the most common stars in the galaxy — bathe planets in their habitable zones with potentially deadly stellar winds, a finding that could have significant impacts on the prevalence of life beyond Earth, new research shows. About 70 percent of stars are red dwarfs, or M-type stars, which are cooler and smaller than the sun. Any red dwarf planets suitable for liquid water, therefore, would have to orbit much closer to their parent star than Earth circles the sun. That presents a problem for life — at least life as we know it on Earth, says physicist Ofer Cohen, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Cohen and colleagues used a computer model based on data from the sun's solar wind — a continuous stream of charged particles that permeates and defines the solar system –- to estimate the space environment around red dwarf stars. 'We find that the conditions are very extreme. If you move planets very close to the star, the force of this flow is very, very strong. Essentially it can strip the atmosphere of the planet unless the planet has a strong magnetic field or a thick atmosphere to start with,' Cohen told Discovery News."

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Frist (2)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 7 months ago | (#47152799)

I learned about that in Slashdot comments, really. Then reading articles on wikipedia, perhaps about specific stars, confirms that red dwarves are quite flare-y. At best the star may be relatively calm but then it will hurl cataclysmic bursts of crap at you anyway.

What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about 7 months ago | (#47152817)

There's a species known as Felis Sapiens that evolved from Lister's cat.

Unfortunately they're down to one last surviving member due to a religious war based upon the colour of hats that were to be worn. He has no drive to procreate, as he is so perfect, that he is madly in love with himself. Meeeoowww.

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (1)

WarJolt (990309) | about 7 months ago | (#47152833)

What are you smoking?

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47152851)

Alright... so bear with me here:

There's this show called Doctor Who. He's referencing one of the species mentioned in the show. It's an "alright" show... and depending on who you ask it's more reliable than the bible for general information on the existence of life.

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47152939)

Can't tell if troll or genuinely uninformed?

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153211)

Too subtle for the average slashdot Asperger's case. Back to masturbating over space elevator drawings!

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (3, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 7 months ago | (#47152893)

never heard of it? [wikipedia.org]

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 7 months ago | (#47153189)

Believe it or not, there are people out there who don't know and don't care about some obscure British sitcom that was cancelled twenty years ago. Lots of people just can't stand sitcoms, period.

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153469)

Cancelled and then brought back again, FOR ANOTHER SEASON!

Actually, three more series but I couldn't help but quote.

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (1)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about 7 months ago | (#47153711)

Blasphemer!

Thou shall not quote from any episode beyond season 6.

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153739)

Also known as Space Corps Directive 28475.

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (1)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about 7 months ago | (#47153771)

28475?!?

No Anonymous Coward may post a reply to a thread on the 26th day of the month using an Sinclair ZX81?!?

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153689)

Precisely - "out there"

However, this is Slashdot...

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47158149)

Lots of people just can't stand sitcoms, period.

How do they feel about Google?

Re: What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 7 months ago | (#47161221)

Believe it or not, there are people out there who don't know and don't care about some obscure British sitcom that was cancelled twenty years ago. Lots of people just can't stand sitcoms, period.

Red Dwarf? Obscure? Its as obscure as Monty Python, smeg head.

Re:What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (2)

Absolutely.Geek (2913529) | about 7 months ago | (#47152885)

Red Dwarf, where we drink our gazpacho warm

Re:What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (2)

stealth_finger (1809752) | about 7 months ago | (#47152919)

There's a species known as Felis Sapiens that evolved from Lister's cat. . He has no drive to procreate, as he is so perfect, that he is madly in love with himself. Meeeoowww.

Pretty sure Kat has a desire to procreate, S-E-X I think I want it (comes across Lister's prone form) S-E-X I think I found it.

Re:What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 7 months ago | (#47154051)

And he does have sex in one of the books (Backwards, I think), though the human(?) girl did not expect the penile spines [wikipedia.org] , and so was rather put off by the whole thing.

Re:What indigenous life exists on red dwarf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153603)

Smegheads.

Re:Frist (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#47152905)

I don't think that is the only problem with red dwarves. The issue of tidal locking in the "habitable zone" (uhm), e.g., comes immediately to one's mind. The rather unfavorable spectrum doesn't help any either.

Re:Frist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47152991)

I think tidal locking for Mercury does not cause only one side to be exposed. For other uses one need Theia that allegedly was involved in creation of our Moon and gave young earth quite a spin which in time got slower thanx to tidal forces. When you look at history of Earth it was a series of disasters that changed the surface of the planet completely. The possible collision with Theia, complete deep frost (not the /. type but the one that froze the oceans etc). Each of these disasters was a kick in the ass that pushed Earth and life of into direction of what we have now. Maybe having planetary contraceptives in form of red dwarfs prevents this undesirable situation or maybe it is necessary start position? We know still so little. Yet if I think about the final result being what humans do to each other I wonder if it were not better if red dwarf did a better job.

Re:Frist (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#47155911)

That's probably actually worse. A fully tidally locked planet would still have relatively stable temperatures thanks to atmospheric mixing, and there's plenty of metabolic processes which don't require light, so life could specialize for the stable light, dark, and twilight realms. On a partially locked planet though you end up with extremely long days. Mercury for example has a day ~66% as long as it's year. That means life there would have to deal with almost a month of night followed by another month of day, with the extreme temperature swings that would entail. Probably possible, but potentially far harsher.

Re:Frist (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#47155833)

At planetary distances tidal locking is a relatively slow process dependent on the angular diameter of the planet as seen from the stellar core and the the magnitude of the gravitational force. Witness Mercury whose day is, after 4+ billion years in close orbit around a relatively massive star, still only 66% as long as its year.

Actually though tidal locking is not necessarily a problem - atmospheric models suggest that mixing would prevent the temperature imbalance from becoming too extreme. Of course you would end up with several very different ecological niches. Obviously photosynthesis would be impossible on the dark side, but that was a relatively late addition to the game on Earth, and there are plenty of other metabolisms available. Meanwhile the light side wouldn't have to deal with that pesky dark period, and the twilight zone would likely have pretty strong, steady winds from which life could potentially extract energy. Of course that's only relevant after complete locking - but then red dwarfs are essentially immortal, so as long as the planet manages to keeps its atmosphere life should have plenty of time to evolve to the conditions available.

The biggest problem I see with tidal locking is its potential impact on the magnetic field protecting the atmosphere, as it's believed that Venus and Mars have only tiny magnetic fields in large part because of slow currents in their cores.

Of course there's also the possibility of the moons of gas giants around red dwarfs. Thanks to the thermal emissions of the gas giant they could be at least a bit further from the sun, as well as getting significant protection from the gas giant's potentially much larger magnetic field. They would also have the benefit of tidally locking to the planet rather than the sun, so they would still experience a diurnal cycle, though it might be a bit slower than Earth's. Io for example orbits Jupiter in 1.7 days.

Re:Frist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47154985)

Those are Amerindian Little Persons, not red dwarfs.

Hey everybody I managersd to difokpel the odpa (-1, Troll)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 7 months ago | (#47152813)

HEr pussy was warm and excited and deweoy! it was Otis tujcjiek ethe international swamp rviver of flasrshback on the weawpsa; pf crpoolp? No! Slashdort is wrong! nothing is the wtire of jiowp sotprkwwrru bigfot of the delicious wonab,

Re:Hey everybody I managersd to difokpel the odpa (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | about 7 months ago | (#47152929)

HEr pussy was warm and excited and deweoy! it was Otis tujcjiek ethe international swamp rviver of flasrshback on the weawpsa; pf crpoolp? No! Slashdort is wrong! nothing is the wtire of jiowp sotprkwwrru bigfot of the delicious wonab,

This is like your Grandad telling a story coming in and out of legibility. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

Interesting.. (1)

ventriloquistw (3679425) | about 7 months ago | (#47152831)

This was quite interesting and comedic for me.. the red dwarfs and the alien world seems interesting to think about!

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47152863)

What have we learned here exactly? It looks to me like we've learned that a particle flux emitted omnidirectionally falls off with the cube of distance - which I think we knew already without a "computer model" - and that magnetic fields protect against solar winds - which we also knew. Yay for science.

Re:What? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#47156007)

Umm, are you sure you don't mean "falls off with the *square* of distance"? Magnetic fields fall off with the cube of distance thanks to their self-neutralizing properties, but I can't think of anything else that does so. Most anything that expands through space falls off as the inverse square of distance, since the surface area through which it passes at distance D scales with D^2.

Not deadly forever (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#47152895)

See this article [astrobio.net] , on the subject, from back in 2009.

. Preliminary results from a dedicated research program have shown that planets around red dwarfs could be habitable if they can maintain a magnetic field for a few billion years ...

The high-energy radiation is predominantly emitted by young stars. As they age, red dwarfs become less magnetically active, while continuing to shine steadily at visible wavelengths for 100 billion years or more. ... ...

Therefore, if an orbiting planet can just hold onto its atmosphere through the wild early years of its red dwarf roommate, it could end up being a decent place to live.

Re:Not deadly forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47155817)

I'm not really sure about this report.

It seems that they are basing the radiation output on that of our star, which is a G-2V. While red Dwarfs are smaller, it stands to reason, (As has already been stated about both Red Dwarfs and Brown Dwarfs), that their average radiation output should be far lower than that of a Yellow Dwarf star, as they have a lower activity level. Plus they are thought to be able to last on the order of Trillions of years. A star with THAT kind of life span could not, unless at the early stages of its' existance, put out the sort of levels of radiation suggested in this article.

Except... (1)

emil (695) | about 7 months ago | (#47156041)

...that such a planet would likely be tidally locked, with one side always facing the star. There would be extreme differences of temperature between the night and day sides, and life might only be sustainable in the never-moving twilight region, depending upon atmosphere convection.

Re:Except... (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#47156659)

I think that's oversimplifying things. Models have shown that atmospheric mixing would result in far less extreme temperature differences than you would naively expect. Meanwhile you don't need light for life, photosynthesis is believed to be a relatively late addition to the metabolic game after all, so the dark side could be a thriving ecosystem with chemovores on the bottom, while the light side and twilight region could incorporate photosynthesis as well.

In fact tidal locking could potentially increase the habitable zone considerably - move the planet closer to the sun and the dark side becomes warmer and more hospitable while the light side becomes increasingly scorching. Conversely move it further from the sun and the dark side becomes more frigid, but the light side becomes milder. So long as things don't become so cold that you freeze out the atmosphere on the dark side, or so hot that even the dark side can't support liquid water, you have the potential for life.

And of course tidal locking to something as far away as a star is a slow process dependent on the absolute gravitational force and the angular size as viewed from the center of the primary - and the second tends to be dramatically smaller for planets than for moons.

Re:Except... (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 7 months ago | (#47157261)

It'd be as hard as finding life in northern scandinavia, where they have months of night and then months of day.

Renaming (3, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 7 months ago | (#47152901)

Scientists might want to rethink the moniker "habitable zone" if it is filled with a deadly amount of stellar radiation... After all, the very definition of the habitable zone is based on the right amount of energy allow for liquid water reaching the planet...

Re:Renaming (4, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 7 months ago | (#47153137)

Scientists might want to rethink the moniker "habitable zone" if it is filled with a deadly amount of stellar radiation...

The habitable zone only refers to the amount of heat radiation a planet receives it does not mean that every large rock there is habitable - just look at the moon. There are additional constraints for a habitable planet e.g. requires an atmosphere and liquid water. All this result does is to add an additional requirement near a red dwarf: you don't just need a gravitational field large enough to hold onto an atmosphere you also need a magnetic field to shield it.

Re:Renaming (2)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 7 months ago | (#47153357)

But isn't some radiation shielding not already part of the requirements?

Re:Renaming (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#47153891)

Nope, it's literally just the set of orbits where you can have liquid water.

Re:Renaming (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 7 months ago | (#47154473)

I think his meaning was that being a habitable planet necessarily includes a magnetic field strong enough to keep the atmosphere intact.

Re:Renaming (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#47156079)

Yeah, if he's pointing out that it's a serious misnomer he's bang on.

Re:Renaming (1)

dryeo (100693) | about 7 months ago | (#47161799)

Venus does a good job of keeping a heavy atmosphere while only having a negligible magnetic field.
Thinking about Venus, another big variable is the amount of green house gases affecting the habitable zone and the paradox of the Earth seeming to have been habitable in the sense of having liquid water for close to 4 billion years while the Sun has increased its output by 25%. Of course in another billion or so years the Sun will get hot enough to boil the oceans of Earth and that'll be the end of an inhabitable Earth (unless we move it)

Re:Renaming (1)

crypticedge (1335931) | about 7 months ago | (#47156423)

No. The habitable zone is the range where life (if all other subsequent conditions are met) may potentially exist.

It strictly means the distance from the star wouldn't burn off all the water or result in a giant ball of ice.

The rest of the factors are looked at after the habitable zone check, but aren't required for that check.

now I get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47152937)

This is why the general public has apathy towards such things. Several times a week there's news about another clue as to whether and how to find life beyond earth, which is a good thing, but yet no real answers. I can understand why after a while people start develop an attitude of "call me when you find one [alien]".

Re:now I get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47154503)

Yep, Rare Earth hypothesis should be a mandatory reading in every school. TBH we should concentrate more on space travel, it seems we have the whole galaxy for ourselves.

Red Dwarf and radiation (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 months ago | (#47152989)

Isn't it exactly how Rimmer and the entire crew died? Old news...

Re:Red Dwarf and radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153429)

That of all the people Rimmer is the one you bring up is troublesome.

Re:Red Dwarf and radiation (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#47156071)

In fairness he's the only member of the dead crew we see outside of the occasional flashback, unless you count the later episodes where the rest of the crew was recreated by nanites.

Re:Red Dwarf and radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153713)

I don't know about sterilisation, but Red Dwarf is certainly a good contraceptive.

OBLIG: It's cold outside... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153003)

There's no kind of atmosphere
We're all alone more or less
Let me fly far away from here
Fun Fun Fun
In the Sun Sun Sun .....

Or is that some other kind of Red Dwarf ........

Earth (1)

KraxxxZ01 (2445360) | about 7 months ago | (#47153315)

Exactly the same thing would happen to Earth if not for its magnetic field. Red dwarfs doesn't seem special in that regard.

This is bad news (1)

maharvey (785540) | about 7 months ago | (#47153337)

If we do find life, it will have evolved in the harshest possible conditions, on a barren irradiated planet beneath a dim red sun. It will be unkillable and probably hungry.

Re:This is bad news (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#47154101)

Well put.

Bonus round, though: Life forms rendered by evolution in that environment will likely find fleshy meat-bags distasteful.

Re:This is bad news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47154239)

it will probably be a single celled piece of crap slubbing about underground tho, so who gives a fuck?

Re:This is bad news (1)

Newander (255463) | about 7 months ago | (#47154409)

Yes, any humanoid species that evolved under a red sun would be regarded by us as some sort of "super man" he would likely be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Politically incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47153351)

You're not allow to call them red dwarfs now, it's offensive. Vertically challenged native American is the correct term.

Good thing they have people for this (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 7 months ago | (#47153699)

Newsflash: Being near a giant nuclear furnace is radiation-y.

Next up: Water is wet, the sky is blue, and Slashdot sucks.

I wish they'd make up their minds... (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 7 months ago | (#47153737)

...about greenhouse gases. We are told that high concentrations will make a Venus out of Mars, that in spite of the young sun being substantially "cooler" than the sun is now, the Earth's high GHG concentration over most of the last 600 million years is responsible for it being substantially warmer than it is now, etc. Surely there are atmospheric chemistries that would keep iron-core, magnetic field equipped, water-bearing planets nice and toasty a good safe distance away from a red dwarf. Give the temperature, life will (probably) find a way...

Of course if it is really the case that temperature is mostly determined by net insolation and perhaps things like the presence of a vast water ocean covering 70% of the surface, with GHGs only contributing an easily saturable "blanket effect" good for a few tens of degrees absolute, well then, I could see that there could be a problem.

Also, it is worth remembering that water is a great radiation barrier. We obviously want to find "land life" because of our occupational bias, but as long as the planet has liquid water oceans, who really cares if the atmosphere is too radioactive for genetic stability? First of all, one can still imagine all sorts of ways that animals or plants could evolve to protect their genetic inheritance and re-stabilize a speciesization process -- a half-dozen sexes, for example, with some sort of majority rule on the chromosome slots, using information redundancy to combat entropy as it were (or evolving more advanced stuff -- genetic "checksum" correction of some sort). Red Dwarfs have much longer lifetimes than the sun, and given ten or twenty billion years, who knows what evolution will kick out? It could be that all of the really old, stable, wise life forms in the Universe evolved around Red Dwarves because mutation rates (and consequently rolls of the evolutionary dice) are high. We don't completely understand genetic optimization as employed in actual evolution, any more than we completely understand how the brain's neural networks avoid some of the no-free-lunch theorems and empirically demonstrated flaws in e.g. classification by even the most sophisticated networks we can yet build. I'm not asserting that there is any "mystery" there, but there are damn sure a lot of scientific questions yet unanswered, and speculating about what we might find living in orbit around a Red Dwarf -- publicly and with much fanfare -- when we cannot reasonably go and find out is science fiction masquerading as science, not the real thing.

rgb

Re:I wish they'd make up their minds... (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#47154203)

Great post. I've been considering the GHG angle for planets too far from their suns for earth-like habitability since the Sunday rendition of Cosmos.

We've discovered bacteria living inside nuclear reactors here on earth. There is life elsewhere in the universe... it is just statistically unlikely to resemble the flavor we are familiar with.

IMHO, this life has significantly less chance for evolution to big-brained, universe explorer than we do.

Re:I wish they'd make up their minds... (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 7 months ago | (#47156681)

The point about the "radiation" from the solar winds isn't the radiation you are thinking of. What they are concerned about is that the solar wind will be so strong that without a powerful magnetic field to redirect it around the planet it will rip the atmosphere from the planet. Have you ever wondered why Mercury doesn't have an atmosphere? It's because the solar wind, with is composed of radiated charged particles, striped it off shortly after the sun and planets formed.

And as an aside, if it was real radiation as in X-rays and gamma rays as opposed to UV and lower wave lengths even the deepest ocean on earth isn't likely to protect you. The gamma bursts from a supernova of a star up to a couple hundred of light years away would sterilize this planet (would probably even get the bacterial life miles deep in the crust). Hell even a pulsar within the same distance would do the same thing if it swept the planet with a pulse. You can't protect yourself from star capable gamma emissions with anything but distance. It's hard to comprehend the danger a star can present because it's hard to imagine that a gamma burst you would experience from a star a hundered light years away would be stronger than that from a nuclear bomb detonating above you.

tldr. What the article is saying is that if the magnetic field isn't strong enough the star strips the atmosphere off the planet and if it has oceans at the time the same solar winds quickly strip them off as they boil away without an atmosphere.

Re:I wish they'd make up their minds... (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 7 months ago | (#47159785)

Fair enough (and yeah, I know about Gamma Ray bursts:-). The Sun could hiccup tomorrow and wipe out most of the life on the planet in an event hardly noticeable from light years away (Larry Niven wrote a lovely short story based on this theme) -- it wouldn't even take a full gamma ray burst. But the point is -- why do they assume that planets orbiting a Red Dwarf will not have a magnetic field? Indeed, I would expect the opposite -- if it has a nickel-iron core like the Earth does, one would expect magnetic protection like the Earth has. If it were a super-Earth like the one discussed on /. yesterday, with a density, size and mass all larger than Earth's, you'd even have additional gravity to bind the atmosphere.

But Red Dwarfs are the last place to look as a source of "real radiation", even if you are closer to the sun -- if one has to BE closer to the sun, see comments on greenhouse effect -- in order to stay warm. Venus has atmosphere to a fault. Put Venus near a Red Dwarf and wait a billion years or so and maybe its atmosphere will thin enough and alter chemistry enough to support Earth-like temperatures and free water. Make Mars the size of the Earth -- but keep the oceans and a pronounced CO_2 bias in the atmosphere -- and maybe Mars would have sustainable temperatures and equatorial oceans, at least. It's doubtful that the "habitable zone" is as narrow as we might think it is using the Earth and our own solar system as the N=1 sample. And then, it is a big Universe.

rgb

If your first thought on reading the headline... (1)

MrLizard (95131) | about 7 months ago | (#47153981)

...wasn't "How can I work in a 'smeghead' joke?", Slashdot might not be the forum for you. I think there's ample openings to post over on TMZ or something.

Re:If your first thought on reading the headline.. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#47154327)

No it is just that MrLizard is a complete and utter Smeghead!

Flare stars suck (1)

FridayBob (619244) | about 7 months ago | (#47154065)

Being small and dim, red dwarf stars exhibit relatively violent flare activity. For example, flares occur regularly on our own star, but the energy this releases is small compared to what is produced in total. However, a flare like that on a star 10.000 times dimmer than ours can momentarily double the energy output. Moreover, flares on red dwarf stars can emit up to 10.000 times as many X-rays as they do on our sun. Oh, and remember that there can be more than one of these flares at a time. So, any life on planets orbiting stars like these has a lot more to contend with than just atmospheric erosion.

As more red dwarf stars are studied in detail, increasing numbers are being classified as flare stars. This may have to do with the type of core that these class-M stars have. Solar flares are caused by magnetic reconnection events that are responsible for the acceleration of charged particles (mostly electrons) that interact with the solar plasma. Our own sun, a G-type, has a radiative core that may result in a more stable and even magnetic field than is produced by the convective cores of M-type stars. If so, then it may turn out that all red dwarf stars are flare stars and, since class-M stars are by far the most numerous, this will have significant consequences for the Drake equation, i.e. the likelihood of finding other intelligent and communicative civilizations in our galaxy.

Would Be Depressing If... (1)

conquistadorst (2759585) | about 7 months ago | (#47154087)

It would be extraordinarily depressing if our current mindset on life in our galaxy will mimic our early mindset of life in our solar system 100 years ago. We all thought for sure Mars and Venus would have little green men :(

mod Adown (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47154197)

FFel an obligation dying. See? It's

With a little greenhouse effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47154977)

I think with the help of greenhouse gases the planet could be more far away from the star and not be tidally locked, also you have to take in account that the flares will affect the part that is expose to the star so exist the possibility life could survive in the part in the middle of day and night could be protected from radiation

Red dwarfs? (0)

Rashdot (845549) | about 7 months ago | (#47155043)

Wouldn't they prefer to be called "vertically challenged Irish Americans"?

Are red dwarfs like the underwear gnomes? (1)

Time_Ngler (564671) | about 7 months ago | (#47155181)

1. Give vasectomies and tubectomies to everyone on alien worlds
2. ?????
3. Profit!

Old red dwarfs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47155197)

Old red dwarf (2 billion years old )are also more stable and produce less flares so giving life a chance.

Of course (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 7 months ago | (#47156011)

...one of the things that is rarely communicated in these sorts of announcements are the error bars in the 'estimate'. Asserting something categorically "is" or "isn't" from what we know is just silly.

We also believe that we've just discovered terrestrial planets 17x the mass of Earth that, according to our calculations, should be Neptunian "small" gas giants.

Like so many sciences, the more we discover, the more we realize how very little we know.

I think it was Carl Sagan who said that - in the context of astronomy & cosmology - we're essentially postulating the entire earth from the equivalent of a cup of seawater. That's probably rather optimistic.

Typical Discovery story? (1)

Stachel (718095) | about 7 months ago | (#47156173)

"potentially deadly"
"could have significant impacts"
"a problem for life"
"estimate"
"it can strip"
[...] Cohen told Discovery News

A lot of 'ifs' and some potential for drama, that's Discovery channel for you nowadays. Everything needs to be spiced up and 'made more interesting' by adding suspense, drame, etc.

Even a walk in the park can be potential disaster, not to mention the problems that can occur while taking candy from a baby.

Good thing I have 56 other channels ;)

When will the documentary be made? (1)

jphamlore (1996436) | about 7 months ago | (#47156375)

When will the Hollywood or Toho documentary "Godzilla Planet" be made about these amazing discoveries?

Dwarf suns bearing life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47156663)

Who ever believed that red dwarf suns were candidate solar systems for looking for life? I know that Krypton was supposed to orbit a red sun, but that's total crap fiction. Is this really news?

That explains why (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 7 months ago | (#47157657)

It's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere.... Red Dwarf [youtube.com]

How does that affect the Drake Equation (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 7 months ago | (#47157721)

Does it make ne extremely low in the Drake equation [wikipedia.org] ?

Nothing new to see here. (1)

Draugo (1674528) | about 7 months ago | (#47162309)

This is not new information and I don't know why it's on Slashdot.
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