The officials at European Southern Observatory (ESO), the 16-nation intergovernmental research organization that studies ground-based astronomy, have recently found an earth-like exoplanet called Proxima b. It lies inside Proxima Centauri that is a red dwarf like star located in our nearest neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri. This newly found exoplanet that can possibly support life lies just about 4.2 light years away from earth.
The team at ESO is all excited about this new discovery and is making extensive research to understand the atmosphere that envelops this planet and is also trying to figure out the possibility of water there. “Many exoplanets have been found and many more will be found, but searching for the closest potential Earth-analog and succeeding has been the experience of a lifetime for all of us”, shared Guillem Anglada-Escude, a team member at ESO. Escude hails from the esteemed Queen Mary University of London.
The team at ESO along with researchers from a program called Pale Red Dot campaign found this new planet while observing Proxima Centauri during the first half of 2016. As a part of this research, they also compared the data collated from observations conducted over the last 16 years. Besides monitoring Proxima Centauri closely, a deep study of this data also pointed towards the existence of Proxima b.
The newly found planet is said to be approximately 1.3 times the size of the Earth and research shows that it is possibly rocky. It has a surface temperature of around -40 degrees Celsius and there is a probability that it has an atmosphere. The exoplanet orbits about 4.3 million miles from Proxima Centauri and takes close to 11.2 days to complete its journey. The team might soon be sending space craft to Alpha Centauri to find out more about the planet. “Proxima b is indeed our neighbour, so let us get used to it”, says the research team.