Cubesats and smallsats

Observing M Dwarfs UV and Optical Flares From A CubeSat And Their Implications For Exoplanets Habitability

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
February 27, 2023
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Observing M Dwarfs UV and Optical Flares From A CubeSat And Their Implications For Exoplanets Habitability
SNR corresponding to different flare energies for each target in the first four groups, for our optical band (blue) and UV band (orange). Horizontal bars correspond to, from bottom to top, statistical minimum, first quartile, median, third quartile, and statistical maximum. Outliers are represented by black diamonds. The red horizontal line corresponds to the value of SNR = 10. — astro-ph.SR

M dwarfs show the highest rocky planet occurrence among all spectral types, in some instances within the Habitable Zone.

Because some of them are very active stars, they are often subject to frequent and powerful flaring, which can be a double-edged sword in regard of exoplanet habitability. On one hand, the increased flux during flare events can trigger the chemical reactions that are necessary to build the basis of prebiotic chemistry.

On the other hand, sufficiently strong flares may erode exoplanets’ atmospheres and reduce their UV protection. Recent observations of flares have shown that the flaring flux can be x100 times stronger in UV than in the optical. UV is also preferable to constrain more accurately both the prebiotic abiogenesis and the atmospheric erosion.

For these reasons, we are developing a CubeSat payload concept to complement current flare surveys operating in the optical.

This CubeSat will observe a high number of flaring M dwarfs, following an all-sky scanning law coverage, both in the UV and the optical to better understand the different effective temperatures as wavelengths and flaring status go.

This will complement the bright optical flares data acquired from the current ground-based, high-cadence, wide FoV surveys. Another scientific planned goal is to conduct few-minute after-the-flare follow-up optical ground-based time-resolved spectroscopy, that will be triggered by the detection of UV flares in space on board of the proposed CubeSat.

Finally, the study of M dwarfs stellar activity in the UV band will provide useful data for larger forthcoming missions that will survey exoplanets, such as PLATO, ARIEL, HabEx and LUVOIR.

Julien Poyatos, Octavi Fors, José Maria Gómez Cama

Comments: 10 pages, 5 figures. Manuscript presented at the 73rd International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2022, Paris, France, 18 – 22 September 2022
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:2302.12566 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2302.12566v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
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Journal reference: IAC-2022, B4, IP, 33, x70034
Submission history
From: Julien Poyatos
[v1] Fri, 24 Feb 2023 10:33:28 UTC (2,587 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻