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Proxima B Discovered By Scientists, Could It Be Habitable To Humans?

First Posted: Aug 29, 2016 04:55 AM EDT
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Astronomers' new research led them to a discovery of a new planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf, just over 4 light-years away that is the nearest star to the sun. This discovery prompted astronomy enthusiasts to wonder why it took experts so long to introduce Earth to its neighbor.

Michael Endl, an astronomer at the McDonald Observatory - University of Texas in Austin, said that he was looking for a planet exactly like the one near Proxima Centauri. He was part of the discovery team that previously led a seven-year campaign in the early 2000s in search for planets with similar masses to Earth's. Planets that are specifically located in the so-called habitable zone around Proxima Centauri with the use of European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile. "We could have found everything from two to three Earth masses in the habitable zone," Endl told Space.com. The newfound alien planet at just 1.3 Earth masses flew right under his radar (or telescope).

Scientists named the newfound planet Proxima B. It cannot be seen by the naked eye from the Earth since it is so small and orbit's a relatively small star.

To investigate further, Astronomer Guillem Anglada- Escudéthen, at the Queen Mary University of London co-author of the research, held a systematic search involving 30 other scientists. They used a High Accuracy Radical Velocity Planet Searcher to observe the behavior of Proxima B.

Based on their study, the planet's mass is roughly the same as of Earth's. There is a chance that the planet is habitable. Escudéthen stated in a report by CNN.com "We know that there are terrestrial planets around stars. The excitement is, because it's the nearest one, and we expect to characterize it and maybe visit in a couple of centuries." Though they still need to conduct more research to prove that the planet is habitable, still the possibilities are endless.

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