ASITV:Hunting for habitability

Alpha Centauri, K2-239 and K2-240 have become targets in NASA'S Kepler and Chandra missions - the goal: investigating whether the planets orbiting within them are potentially habitable

Video transcript - An intense week for research into the habitability of the exoplanets, thanks to the discoveries made by Chandra and Kepler. NASA's X-ray observatory has its eye on Alpha Centauri and has discovered that none of the planets in the system, orbiting around its two brightest stars A and B, are bombarded by an excess of X-rays being emitted by the two stars.

Data from Chandra, regarding habitability, takes into consideration all three stars in the Centauri system: A, B and C, also known as Proxima. A is similar to our Sun, B is not as bright, while Proxima is a red dwarf with a much bigger orbit and it is undoubtedly the closest star to Earth. Observations of the system lasted for over a decade and identified the fact that any planet situated in the habitable area of star A receives less radiation than that received by other planets orbiting around our Sun.

However, the quantity of UV-B rays is 5 times greater than that of our own sun, while radiation coming from Proxima is as much as 500 times higher than the radiation to which the Earth is exposed. Therefore, there is no possibility of the planet discovered in orbit around Proxima being habitable. While the search for exoplanets near Alf Cen stars A and B continues, according to data from Chandra, life could, however, stand a chance of existing. New discoveries also come from the tireless Kepler, which has identified two new planetary systems orbiting around two red dwarfs.

The first, K2-239, includes three rocky planets with dimensions similar to the Earth, while the second, K2-240, has two super-Earths that are twice the size of ours. Calculations based on the first estimates indicate that temperatures of the atmospheres of these systems may be several tens of times higher than the terrestrial ones, due to the strong radiation that they receive from their suns. To find out more, we will have to wait for the debut of the James Webb Telescope, which promises to investigate the structure of the exoplanets with a precision never achieved until now.