Proxima Centauri B is the closest known exoplanet to Earth. It is a rocky sized super Earth planet and is part of this weeks Science Weekend feature.
Are there more Earth’s in the universe? It’s a question people have asked for millennia, and which some scientist spend a career on.
To date thousands of exoplanets have been discovered with many in the habitable zone of a star system. It seems with the rapid progress scientists are making that it’s only a matter of time before we find one that truly resembles Earth.
This weeks Science Weekend episode from the Science Channel explores this topic and takes look at the exoplanet Proxima Centauri B which is only 4.2 light years away, literally our next neighbour.
It was only discovered in 2016. Its mass is 1.27 of Earths’ and it takes 11.2 days to complete one orbit of its star, and is 0.0485 AU from its star.
Is there an Earth 2.0 in the universe?
NASA describes the planet as this way.
“Proxima Centauri, Proxima b encounters bouts of extreme ultraviolet radiation hundreds of times greater than Earth does from the Sun. That radiation generates enough energy to strip away not just the lightest molecules — hydrogen — but also, over time, heavier elements such as oxygen and nitrogen.”
“Just because Proxima b’s orbit is in the habitable zone, which is the distance from its host star where liquid water could pool on a planet’s surface, doesn’t mean it’s habitable. It doesn’t take into account, for example, whether water actually exists on the planet, or whether an atmosphere could survive at that orbit. Atmospheres are also essential for life as we know it: Having the right atmosphere allows for climate regulation, the maintenance of a water-friendly surface pressure, shielding from hazardous space weather, and the housing of life’s chemical building blocks.”
So does Proxima Centauri B have life? It’s a question we can’t really answer yet.