Scientists Discover Habitable Planet Close to Earth

Scientists Discover Habitable Planet Close to Earth

Scientists have recently discovered a habitable planet close to our solar system. The planet is called Proxima b, and it’s located near the Proxima Centauri star. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our own Sun. It may not seem that close, in human terms. But at a cosmic level, our two planets are quite close to one another.

The distance between the planet and the Sun it orbits is perfect to support the existence of liquid water. Experts say it could also possibly provide a home for human beings outside our own solar system.

Scientists hope they are going to be able to send exploration probes in the following centuries. Angsgar Reiners, an astrophysics expert and the author of the study said, “The good news is that it is so close. It is not only nice for having it in our neighborhood, but it’s a dream come true for astronomers if we think about follow-up observation”

Proxima Centauri lies near the Alpha Centauri binary solar system. This system is one of the most well-studied ones out there.

Proxima b is about 4.2 lightyears away. To put that into perspective, 4.2 lightyears is about 266.000 times the distance between our own planet and The Sun.

Guillem Anglada-Escudé, the leading researcher in charge of the study stated, “It’s not only the closest terrestrial planet found, it’s probably the closest planet outside our solar system that will ever be found because there is no star closer to the solar system than this one”

Scientists say it took them a while to find this planet because of the layout of the system, and the types of stars within them. Alpha Centauri is a binary system, and it’s extremely bright. Proxima Centauri, on the other hand, is much smaller and cooler. This is way it was harder to see it and the system around it.

What We Know About this Habitable Planet So Far

The planet itself is much closer to its sun than Earth is. However, because Proxima Centauri is cooler, and less powerful than our own Sun, liquid water can exist on Proxima b.

Researchers are still unsure if this planet has an atmosphere. They speculate that if it did, the surface temperatures would be around 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (31 to 40 degrees Celsius) on average. If it doesn’t, then the temperatures on the surface would be around -22 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 to -40 degrees Celsius).

Because this possibly habitable planet is so close to its sun, it probably doesn’t have to face the same levels of x-ray and ultraviolet radiation the Earth has to confront.

There are still a lot of things researchers don’t know about this potentially habitable planet. For one, they don’t know if it has a magnetic field, like the Earth does. Such a magnetic field protects it against cosmic radiation.

On a broader level, the scientists want to find out how the planet formed. This is quite important, because the answer to this question could tell us if you could actually live on it or not.

Scientists are very excited about this discovery. Because it is so close to our own solar system, it can be relatively easily studied from here. And we could potentially send a mission to it in the following centuries.

It also means that there might be more habitable planets out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Image Source: Hubble Space Telescope