Sitting in at the symposium of NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program (I am on the advisory council) we all gathered round for the announcement confirming recent rumors of a "goldilocks zone" planet orbiting the nearest visible star to our own -- Proxima Centauri. The planet orbits every 11.2 days. It’s at least 1.3 times as massive as our planet, and based on its likely size, astronomers think it is rocky. Its home star is only .15 percent as bright as the sun. The system is 25 trillion miles away, more than 270,000 times farther than the sun. The Proxima team used the radial velocity method, analyzing the star's light for wobbles caused by orbiting planets… a different approach than the "transit eclipse" approach used by the Kepler spacecraft ti detect thousands of new worlds… using the HARPS spectrograph, mounted on a 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. Note that this planet orbiting so close to its dim sun will probably be tidal-locked like our moon is toward the Earth. Also, like most small K or M types stars, Proxima emits a lot of flares and X-rays, meaning even if there's liquid water on this world. Hence any life would need to shelter along a Twilight Zone.
Can we learn more? Well, if we are lucky with the Proxima system's orbital plane -- There’s only a 1.5 percent chance the Proxima Centauri system’s geometry is arranged in such a way that we could see this. But if so, we might be able to look at its atmosphere. But even if there's no transit, some of the endeavors being funded by NIAC might enable us to see this new world even better, so stay tuned!