By Daniel Strain

Principal investigator
Meredith MacGregor

National Science Foundation (NSF); NASA

Collaboration + support
Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy; Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences; Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP); National Solar Observatory

Now, that’s one big cosmic explosion.

A research team led by Meredith MacGregor, assistant professor at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA), has observed the largest flare ever recorded from the sun’s nearest neighbor: the star Proxima Centauri.

Proxima Centauri is a “red dwarf” star that sits just four light-years from Earth. And on May 1, 2019, researchers saw it erupt in a record-setting explosion using a suite of five instruments in space and on the ground.

“The star went from normal to 14,000 times brighter when seen in ultraviolet wavelengths over the span of a few seconds,” MacGregor said.

She added that such flares from Proxima Centauri might be more common than scientists think—bad news for any nearby lifeforms.

Photo by NRAO/S. Dagnello

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