back to article Red dwarf superflares batter formerly 'habitable' exoplanet

Humanity may have to rethink colonisation plans for exoplanet Kepler-438b, since what was hailed earlier this year as a candidate to support life as we know it, has now been declared decidedly inhospitable. The planet - a probably rocky world with a diameter 12 per cent bigger than Earth - was identified back in January, …

  1. TRT Silver badge
  2. Thecowking

    I'd guess with that kind of Stellar wind

    There's no kind of atmosphere.

    1. Lexxy

      Re: I'd guess with that kind of Stellar wind

      It's all fun fun fun in the sun sun sun.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: I'd guess with that kind of Stellar wind

        Somewhat difficult to get fresh mango juice out that way though.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Not new news

    Lower Mass = Worse flares

    Dimmer star = Habitable / Goldilocks zone closer

    So life periodically erased. This has been known for some time, Red Dwarves likely to only have primitive life or none?

    1. Grikath

      Re: Not new news

      *points to Earth's mass extinctions*

      Yeah, because a couple of solar flares will stop Life once it's gotten hold...

      If the planet has an atmosphere that allows for liquid water, then there'll be oceans. Water tends to be pretty good at stopping "excess radiation", so any life in it has a double buffer when it comes to that. In fact, life here started there, and thrived, when land-based conditions here on Earth were decidedly hostile to life in general.

      It all depends what you mean by "primitive" life, of course... Biologically speaking there's only "more" and "less" adapted to a particular environment. In that respect, most, if not all life on earth runs on the latest updates, and is still trying out the alpha builds.

      1. ZSn

        Re: Not new news

        Near a red dwarf the solar flares are a *lot* worse. Because the core is fully convective on the smaller red dwarves this leads to extremely large solar flares, magnitudes bigger than our sun produces.

        However, this is not news I was taught this in an astrophysics course nearly thirty years ago.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Not new news

          However, this is not news I was taught this in an astrophysics course nearly thirty years ago.

          This is pretty cool, I had to get my astrophysics from scrunged books and "popularizations" (soon abandoned) I barely understood.

          Any computer models on this?

      2. nijam

        Re: Not new news

        > ... an atmosphere that allows for liquid water ...

        No atmosphere necessary for that, except possibly a bit of water vapour.

        I've always been amused that liquid water has been the only stated proxy for the "Goldilocks Zone", when so much more is required. Unless of course you aren't a carbon-based life form.

    2. ItsNotMe

      Re: Not new news

      "...Red Dwarves likely to only have primitive life or none?

      Possibly...but Red Dwarfs may have other lifeforms which are unknown to human scientists, and therefore may be able to survive periodic solar bombardments.

      1. PNGuinn

        Re: Not new news @I_N_M

        Like Dwarves?

        Thanks - it's the little one at the end.

    3. Robert Moore

      Re: Not new news

      >>Red Dwarves likely to only have primitive life or none

      I suggest we call these primitive lifeforms Lister.

      1. AbelSoul

        Re: call these primitive lifeforms Lister

        Or good, old Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer

  4. Grikath

    That's when and if...

    It all depends on whether or not that planet still has a functioning magnetic field.

    Never mind solar flares, the Earth has copped plenty of those in its history, and we still have a functioning atmosphere. If the data from our solar system is any indication, your basic solar wind is much more significant in terms of atmoshere stripping than any solar flare activity. Even Pluto shows the effect, and you can't really say its particularly close to the Sun....

    Besides.. that star being a red dwarf, 6 billion years would be rather youthful.. they last a wee bit longer than our Sun...

    1. annodomini2

      Re: That's when and if...

      They talk about 2 different planets

      Kepler 438b the main focus of the article, orbiting a Red dwarf.

      Kepler 452b orbiting a yellow G type star, same as our Sun. This is now 6Bn years old, and about to enter it's Red Giant phase.

  5. Camilla Smythe

    "Have they stopped Looking?"


    "Well switch off that bloody disco rig, put the kettle on and fetch me my slippers and pipe."

  6. TheTick

    Extreme age?

    "scientists put the kibosh on the prospect of colonisation by noting that the Kepler-452 solar system's extreme age - six billion years"

    Is that really considered extreme age for a G-class star? Ours is about 4.5 billion years old and considered middle-aged with a few billion years left before it uses up it's hydrogen. Kepler-452 sounds like it's in it's 50's - getting on a bit but still kicking.

    Assuming we could get there and colonise the planet we could get at least a few hundred million years out of it surely?

    1. ZSn

      Re: Extreme age?

      Because of the sensitivity of the nuclear fusion rate to temperature and that owing to convection nearly all the hydrogen will be converted to helium (as opposed to our star), I've seen calculations that give a lifetime of 15 *trillion* years for some red dwarves. Yup, that's a thousand times longer than the current age of the universe. You would have enough time on this planet before it's sun faded to cold. The radiation from the star, well that's another matter.

      1. TitterYeNot

        Re: Extreme age?

        "I've seen calculations that give a lifetime of 15 *trillion* years for some red dwarves"

        That's very true, but only valid for smaller red dwarves. Kepler-438 is supposedly about 0.5 solar masses, so while it'll last longer than our own sun, it will in all likelihood end main sequence and become an intermediate red giant in a few billion years.

        Given that Kepler-438b has such a close orbit, once that happens I think it would be fair to describe conditions on the surface of the exoplanet as 'a bit toasty'...

        1. Wilseus

          Re: Extreme age?

          No one actually knows what happens to red dwarfs in their old age because the universe isn't nearly old enough yet for any to have aged sufficiently. The last time I read about this it was hypothesised that due to their complete internal convection, unlike our own Sun, as they run out of hydrogen to fuse they will shrink and become hotter and bluer in order to maintain equilibrium. Whether they would then enter in some sort of mini-red giant stage before turning into a mini-white dwarf, I don't know.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Yet another Wolves' hit

    We have bigger problems than puny ISIS

  8. Alien8n Silver badge

    Solar surfing

    This is why the tri-annual solar surfing championship will be held there. Assuming there are enough contestants after the little accident with a neutron bomb caused the star to go supernova at the event a couple of years ago, wiping out the entire committee and all the contestants. Tri-D viewing figures went through the roof for that one...

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Solar surfing

      "Tri-D viewing figures went through the roof for that one..."

      As did the contestants.....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solar surfing

      which reminds me of these ...

  9. Graham Jordan

    Daily Mail claims...

    Solar winds? Neh, it was them bloody refugees that stripped the atmosphere don't ya know. That are those filthy queers and their lose morals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Daily Mail claims...


      Also: stripping refugees, particularly if enticing Yazidi women, are always welcome.

  10. Graham Jordan

    Daily Mail claims pt 2

    Ha, this is one of those rare occasions where the Daily Mail can accurately give off a shock head line.

    "Living on Kepler 438b gives you cancer!"

  11. NanoMeter


    Poor exoplanet. The red dwarf is throwing smeg at it all the time.

  12. Stevie Silver badge


    So our colonists can expect to have to do battle with radiation-mutated mutants?

    Obviously, the important question is which path have the mutations taken; X-Man or Dalek?

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      It's the super mutants and death claws that they have to watch out for...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah!

        Giant Mutated Cockroaches on Kepler whateveryMars! Which you can then fight under heavy personal sacrifice.

        This takes "pulp fiction" to the limit, I guess.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          This takes "pulp fiction" to the limit, I guess.

          Pulp fiction or space opera? Or just another B-Movie plot?

  13. stucs201

    So no Chirpsithra then?

    Shame, the Draco Tavern always sounded like a decent pub.

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    "equivalent to 100 billion megatons of TNT"

    Don't need to light the barbie then?

  15. VinceH Silver badge


    * Cancels holiday plans.

  16. Marketing Hack Silver badge


    Pass the SPF 2000, please....

  17. Kleykenb


    If it's in the Goldy Locks zone then surely bears can live there.

    1. PNGuinn

      Re: Exhile

      If there's bears there must be - PORRIDGE! Sporr'uns of it!!!

      So - all we English need to do is tell the Jocks there's mines of it up there, strap 'em into the B-ark and send 'em off ...

  18. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    But the travel posters

    looked so nice...

  19. druck Silver badge


    In July, NASA declared it had discovered "the closest thing yet to another Earth" - Kepler-452b. Once again, scientists put the kibosh on the prospect of colonisation by noting that the Kepler-452 solar system's extreme age - six billion years - meant the planet is probably suffering as its venerable G-type star increases its energy output en route to expanding into a red giant.
    It's far more likely any inhabitants of Kepler-452b would be looking to colonise a small blue planet around a fairly young main sequence star, than the other way around.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not all bad

    If it has no mag field - will there be oodles of He3 to mine?

  21. Martin Budden

    Mercury has a comet-like tail and also bugger-all remaining atmosphere, so this news makes sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the flip side

      Non carbon (ie machine intelligence) life might be able to live there.

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