Is there a hidden ‘super earth’ exoplanet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor?

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Photo credits: NASA

From the popular mechanics

  • Scientists have found evidence that a new exoplanet candidate is orbiting our closest star neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

  • This exoplanet candidate, Proxima c, is probably six times the mass of Earth.

  • But life on the planet is unlikely to survive in the face of freezing temperatures.

The red dwarf star Proxima Centauri is our next star neighbor; The star system is only 4.2 light years from Earth and can be seen with the naked eye. Because of this proximity, the system has long been a target of scientific investigation and intrigue. In 2016, researchers discovered Proxima b, which has an earth-like mass and an orbital period of 11 days in the habitable zone of the star system.

Although found in the habitable zone – that planetary sweet spot that experts believe liquid water could exist – Proxima b is tidal, meaning that only one side of the planet is facing its sun.

Now there is a new candidate for exoplanets in the city: Proxima c. There is evidence that it has a mass that is approximately six times that of Earth and orbits its star every five years, according to a study published in the journal on January 15 science advances,

But since Proxima Centauri is a relatively weak star, Proxima c is probably an extremely cold world. According to Space.com, temperatures on the planet could drop to -388 degrees Fahrenheit. We are unlikely to find life in such a cool world.

An international team of researchers analyzed 17 years of data from HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) and UVES (Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph), both of which are installed on telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. The scientists found that Proxima Centauri experienced an unexplained jiggle that could be explained by the gravity of another planet.

Currently Proxima c is only an exoplanet candidate, as scientists train additional planetary hunting tools on the star system to confirm the existence of the object. But such a surprising discovery near home would show how much more one can learn about the stars in our cosmic backyard.

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