NASA-propelled rockets exploded to assess Alpha Centauri's habitability

NASA-propelled rockets exploded to assess Alpha Centauri’s habitability

Two sounding rockets are launched from Australia this month, with experiments designed to measure whether the ultraviolet light coming from the stars in the Alpha Centauri system could be harmful to possible life on planets orbiting them. The research will also teach us about how normal – or not – the sun is.

Alpha Centaurionly 4.3 light-years away, consists of two main stars, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B (which form a binary pair), and a third star, Proxima Centauri. Although no planets have been positively identified orbiting either Alpha Centauri A or B, if any, ultraviolet light from their stars can have a big impact on whether they host life.

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