Flaring Activity of Proxima Centauri from TESS Observations: Quasiperiodic Oscillations during Flare Decay and Inferences on the Habitability of Proxima b

Krisztián Vida, Katalin Oláh, Zsolt Kővári, Lidia Van Driel-Gesztelyi, Attila Moór, András Pál

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We analyze the light curve of the M5.5 dwarf Proxima Centauri obtained by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in Sectors 11 and 12. In the ≈50 day long light curve we identified and analyzed 72 flare events. The flare rate was 1.49 events per day; in total, 7.2% of the observing time was classified as flaring. The estimated flare energies were on the order of 1030-1032 erg in the TESS passband (≈4.8× higher in bolometric energies, but on the same order of magnitude). Most of the eruptions appeared in groups. Two events showed quasiperiodic oscillations during their decay phase with a timescale of a few hours, which could be caused by quasiperiodic motions of the emitting plasma or oscillatory reconnection. From the cumulative flare frequency distribution we estimate that superflares with energy output of 1033 erg are expected to occur three times per year, while magnitude larger events (with 1034 erg) can occur every second year. This reduces the chances of habitability of Proxima Cen b, although earlier numerical models did not rule out the existence of liquid water on the planetary surface. We did not find any obvious signs of planetary transit in the light curve.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 20 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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