In The Field

AAS 2009: Don’t be shy, cuddle up to an M dwarf

Some 70% of the stars in the galaxy are M dwarfs, and so exoplanet surveys will be targeting these relatively cool, small stars. But the habitable zone for Earth-like planets in these systems will be at least five times closer to the M dwarf than the Earth is to the sun. That keeps the planet warm, but also subjects it to the star’s capricious behavior. “They flare as powerfully or even more so than the Sun,” says Lucianne Walkowicz, of the University of California at Berkeley, who gauged the effects of an M dwarf flare on planetary habitability in an 


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