Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri This illustration shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image, between the planet and Proxima itself. Proxima b is slightly more massive than Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature would allow liquid water to exist on its surface. (ESO / M. Kornmesser)
The ESO (European Southern Observatory) in a statement confirmed on Wednesday, August 24, that a team of astronomers found clear evidence of a rocky planet similar to Earth, orbiting in the habitable zone of the star Proxima Centauri.
This new planet, which has been baptized Proxima b, orbits a red star (colder than the Sun) every 11 days with a temperature where water could be in liquid form. It is a more massive planet than ours but rocky. "It may be the closest planet that can support life outside the Solar System," says ESO in its statement.
The first signs of a possible planet were seen in 2013, but the detection was not convincing.
This illustration shows the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image, at the top and to the right of Proxima. Kornmesser)
ESO mentions that this planet was observed from the first semester regularly by the HARPS spectrograph, installed in the ESO 3.6-meter Telescope at La Silla (Chile) and also by other telescopes simultaneously in the world. They were looking for a small wobble, caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet.
This Pale Red Dot campaign - ESO explains - “refers to Carl Sagan's famous phrase that describes the Earth as a pale blue dot. Since Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star, it would bathe its orbiting planet in a pale red glow. "
“The first signs of a possible planet were seen in 2013, but the detection was not convincing. Since then, we have worked hard to get more feedback with the help of ESO and other institutions. The recent Pale Red Dot campaign has taken almost two years of planning, ”said Guillem Anglada-Escudé of Queen Mary University of London, who led this campaign team.
This discovery opens the possibility for a migration journey of humanity towards new worlds.
The planet Proxima b is closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun, but is within the habitable zone because Centauri is a red star. However, due to this proximity it would be affected by flares of X-rays and infrared rays more intense than planet Earth.
The video below shows an artist's impression of a journey from Earth (the pale blue dot) to Proxima b, a pale red dot orbiting the closest star to the Solar System, Proxima Centauri. As we leave the Solar System we see the figures of the known constellations, such as the Southern Cross (Crux) and the bright stars Alpha Centauri and Beta.
Paul Butler, a member of the team of astronomers that made the find, told Phys.org that this effort is part of the culmination of 30 years of work, “[resulting] in the discovery of hundreds of planets around the stars. nearby, and now a potentially habitable planet around the closest star in the sky. This work confirms the speed of the studies and the precision of the Kepler satellite, which has shown that potentially habitable planets are common, and points the way to the future. "
The importance of this discovery opens the possibility of a concrete objective, for a migration journey of humanity towards new worlds. As is the Breakthrough Listen initiative (launched in April 2016), in which physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian businessman Yuri Milner have joined to develop interstellar spacecraft that can travel at relativistic speeds (equivalent to 20% of the speed of the light). This project already put the Alpha Centauri System as an initial goal, where the Proxima Centauri star is located with this new discovered planet similar to Earth.
The Epoch Times