ALMA discovers cold dust around nearest star

The ALMA Observatory in Chile has detected dust around the closest star to the Solar System, Proxima Centauri. These new observations reveal the glow coming from cold dust in a region between one to four times as far from Proxima Centauri as the Earth is from the Sun. The data also hint at the presence of an even cooler outer dust belt and may indicate the presence of an elaborate planetary system.


Mini-flares potentially jeopardise habitability of planets circling red dwarf stars

Cool dwarf stars are hot targets for exoplanet hunting right now. The discoveries of planets in the habitable zones of the TRAPPIST-1 and LHS 1140 systems, for example, suggest that Earth-sized worlds might circle billions of red dwarf stars, the most common type of star in our galaxy. But, like our own sun, many of these stars erupt with intense flares. Are red dwarfs really as friendly to life as they appear, or do these flares make the surfaces of any orbiting planets inhospitable?


Proxima Centauri might be more Sun-like than we thought

Astronomers recently announced that the nearby star Proxima Centauri hosts an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone. Proxima Centauri is a small, cool, red dwarf star only one-tenth as massive and one-thousandth as luminous as the Sun. However, new research shows that it is Sun-like in one surprising way: it has a regular cycle of starspots.

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Best image of Alpha Centauri A and B

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has given us this stunning view of the closest bright stars Alpha Centauri A (on the left) and Alpha Centauri B (on the right), at a distance of 4.3 light-years from the Earth. The Alpha Centauri group is completed by a faint red dwarf, Proxima Centauri (not shown), recently revealed to possess an Earth-like planet orbiting in its habitable zone.


White dwarf lashes red dwarf with mystery ray

Astronomers have discovered a new type of exotic binary star. In the system AR Scorpii a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.