Lisa Kaltenegger, director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute, is available for independent comment on today’s European Southern Observatory (ESO) announcement regarding a small planet around the flare star Proxima Centauri in the habitable zone. Kaltenegger, who did not take part in the study, is an expert on habitability and how to spot it on other worlds.

In an independent and upcoming paper, currently available online here, Kaltenegger and Carl Sagan Institute research associate Jack O’Malley-James explore how life could survive around a flare star – like Proxima Centauri – and how those flares could actually uncover a hidden biosphere on another world.

Kaltenegger says:“Proxima Centauri b is a potentially habitable world around our closest star – and maybe also a far future travel destination. An exoplanet could not get closer than that, even if it tried!

“This world is also fascinating because it orbits a violent flare star - the planet in the habitable zone being hit by these flares from an early age on. Life on such a planet could be very different from life here on Earth.

“Life on such a planet would probably have to shelter underground or under water if it exists - or develop a method to shelter from the flares and its temporary high UV radiation.

“The StarShot initiative should change its course just a little bit to make sure to take a close look at this fascinating world.

“It is a great target for the next generation of big telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescopes, to search for signs of life on Proxima Centauri b.”

To access additional information, images and graphics on the upcoming paper by Lisa Kaltenegger and Jack O’Malley-James, click here. Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

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