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Proxima B: Future Home Or Doomed World? Planet’s Climate Could Be Stable, Study Suggests

First Posted: May 19, 2017 04:30 AM EDT
Proxima b
A new research has suggested that exoplanet Proxima b could have a stable climate.
(Photo : Jose Pecina - Astronomía/YouTube screenshot)

Last year, astronomers had announced the discovery of a small, rocky Earth-like planet orbiting the solar system’s closest neighboring star. Subsequently, researchers from the University of Exeter collaborated with the United Kingdom Met Office to simulate the climate of this distant exoplanet called Proxima b. Now, scientists have taken the first steps to study the climate of this intriguing world that has been hailed as Earth’s nearest potentially habitable planet.

The initial observation of the planet, which is located 4.2 light-years away from Earth in the Alpha Centauri system, indicates that it could lie in the habitable zone of its host star. As per a Gizmodo report, if Proxima b has an Earth-like structure or atmosphere, then it could receive the right amount of light to have liquid water.

The simulation by the scientists has shown that the exoplanet has a climate similar to Earth. However, Proxima b’s host star radiates light at the near-infrared end of the spectrum. This is not only a different scenario from that of Earth and Sun but that it also means the climate models had to account for various situations.

The research team therefore simulated different orbits and atmospheric compositions. "As well as examining how the climate would behave if the planet was 'tidally-locked' (where one day is the same length as one year), we also looked at how an orbit similar to Mercury... would affect the environment," researcher Dr. Ian Boutle said, according to stuff.co.nz. The various models have indicated that Proxima b could have the ability to hold liquid water and could have a stable climate.

Incidentally, the researchers have added that they are trying to know more about the bewildering diversity of newly discovered planets in other star systems. However, more importantly, they are trying to exploit the knowledge to improve the understanding of the climate of Earth itself and how it has evolved and will continue to evolve.

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