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A Terrestrial Planet Candidate in a Temperate Orbit around Proxima Centauri

Is it a potentially habitable world in our nearest star?
It's too early to say so. Scientists have yet much to know.

Surely, the most exciting aspect of this discovery is that Proxima b is relatively close enough to Earth for detailed studies in the next years by current and future observatories.

The planet's discovery by a team led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé of Queen Mary University of London was reported in Nature on 24 August 2016>>

Observations reveal the presence of a small planet with a minimum mass of about 1.3 Earth masses orbiting the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, the Sun’s closest stellar neighbour (about 4.25 light-years from the Sun in the constellation of Centaurus) and one of the best-studied low-mass stars. Proxima Centauri is slightly older than the Sun.

This exoplanet, named Proxima Centauri b (more commonly referred to as Proxima b) and orbiting within the habitable zone of star Proxima Centauri, is so the closest exoplanet to the Solar System, as well as the closest potentially habitable exoplanet known. The planet orbits its parent star every 11.2 days, receiving about 70% the energy Earth receives from the Sun.

Proxima Centauri b was found using the radial velocity method, where periodical Doppler movements of spectral lines of the host star indicated an orbiting object. These measurements were done using two spectrographs, HARPS at La Silla Observatory and UVES on the 8-meter Very Large Telescope. The first indication of a planet was found in 2013. The peak radial velocity of the host star combined with the orbital period allowed for the minimum mass of the exoplanet to be calculated.

► Read the ESO pdf: "A terrestrial planet candidate in a temperate orbit around Proxima Centauri">>

► Image explanation: This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri.
ESO / M. Kornmesser

Further reading

► "A Potentially Habitable World in Our Nearest Star">>

► "One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth">>

► "Earth-sized planet around nearby star is astronomy dream come true">>

► Proxima Centauri b>>

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