Astronomers find a “Super-Earth” orbiting Proxima Centauri

Space travels have always been one of the wildest dreams of human beings. Many, including the late scientist Stephen Hawkings, believe that one day we will have to leave our pale blue dot behind.

Where will we go then? Astronomers answer this question by pointing out to something called an “Exoplanet”. Exoplanets are planets that exist beyond our solar system. Like Earth, they will also have a star system to orbit around. We cannot start life in all exoplanets. Only exoplanets that are present in a “Goldilocks zone” and can sustain liquid water will be able to accommodate life.

In 2016 an exoplanet that could possibly sustain life was discovered orbiting around our closest star Proxima Centauri. The discovery of the planet, named Proxima b was received very well by the scientific community and the world as well. 

Now our scientists have done it again. A new second exoplanet has been identified orbiting the same star by a team of astronomers. The planet now called Proxima c, comes off as an interesting discovery, intensifying the interest over the Proxima Centauri (PC) star. 

PC is a red dwarf binary star orbiting with its paired star Alpha Centauri. Red dwarfs are lower in brightness when compared to our Sun.

The new planet is a  “Super-Earth” as it’s bigger in size than Earth. It has a mass that is about half of Neptune and an orbiting radius 1.5 times that of Earth. The researchers estimate that it completes an orbit of Proxima Centauri every 5.2 Earth years.

The scientists who made the discovery are a bit sceptical about finding liquid water on the planet as it is placed a little too far from PC. The discovery and relating research have been published in “Science Advances” journal. The lead author of this study Mario Damasso is from the INAF Astrophysical Observatory of Turin, Italy.

Astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile to trace light signals from the planet’s direction and then looked into 17 years of radial velocity data to determine whether the Proxima c is indeed a planet.


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