A “Super-Earth” Orbiting the Nearest Star to the Sun?
A research work published in the journal Science Advances suggests that there could be a “Super-Earth” orbiting Proxima Centauri; a low-mass star located some 4.244 light-years away from the Sun in the southern constellation of Centaurus. This was suggested by the team comprising Mario Damasso and colleagues which analyzed the cyclical changes of the light emitted by the star Proxima Centauri.
Discovered by Scottish scientist Robert T. A. Innes in 1915, scientists have been observing Proxima Centauri specifically for 15 years aimed at detecting earth-like planets.
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The data presented in the article suggests that this Earth-like candidate planet has a complete orbit of 5.2 years around the star Proxima Centauri. The researchers believe that it’s mass is greater as compared to Earth but lighter as than Neptune and Uranus. Though its existence is yet to be confirmed, but once it is, it could provide valuable insights on how planets with low mass can form around low mass stars.
Currently, such low mass planets are thought to form at distance between a star and its planet at which it is possible for water to turn into ice (also known as the ‘snowline’ area). This newly discovered Earth-like candidate planet is well beyond the snowline area.
The article cites a study where previously a source of light spectral signals was also discovered in the Proxima Centauri system. They think that this source may have come from a second planet from a nearby galaxy or from a completely unrelated event. Mario Damasso and his team analyzed 17.5 years’ worth of data on high precision radial velocities to find whether the light signal came from a planet orbiting the Proxima Centauri star. The researchers were able to collect additional velocities of Proxima due to the Red Dots campaign.
The researchers believe that they need more evidence to confirm the discovery of this Earth-Like planet. But if confirmed, can humans colonize this habitable planet in future?