Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have announced the discovery of a planet located within the “habitable zone”of the closest star to our solar system – Proxima Centuri. The findings were presented in a paper published August 25, 2016 in the Journal of Nature.
Excitement has been underway since the beginning of 2016, when careful monitoring of the dim red dwarf star produced convincing evidence of a wobbling effect. A star will ever so slightly wobble as it travels in space by the gravitational pull or tug of an orbiting planet. The high precision measurements conclude that Proxima Centauri is approaching earth at about 5 kilometers per hour – normal human walking pace – and at times receding at the same speed.
The new planet, designated Proxima Centuri b is 1.3 times the mass of earth and orbits the hosting star once every 11.2 days. Temperature estimates suggest that water, if it exists on the planet could be in liquid form. The new world and its host are part of a triple star system which includes a brighter companion star named Alpha Centauri, all together are only 4.3 light years from us.
The news has been shared on the Pale Red Dot website, which has reported the progress astronomers have made; reanalyzing first planetary suspicions and data back to 2013 or before.
Recently, a scientific collaboration to send a man made craft to the Alpha Centuri system via the StarShot project is under consideration. The trip from earth may take twenty years traveling at 20 percent of the speed of light.
Milestone technology may bring us closer to finding life outside our own solar system in the not too distant future.
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