Scientists Discover New Planet Orbiting Nearest Star in Solar System | Astronomy

Astronomers have found evidence of a new planet circling Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun.

The alien world is only a quarter of the mass of Earth and orbits extremely close to its parent star, one-tenth the distance between the sun and Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system.

The researchers spotted the new planet after studying tiny wobbles in Proxima Centauri’s motion caused by the gravitational pull it exerts as it swings around the star. Observations taken with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile suggest that the planet completes a full orbit around the star every five days.

The discovery shows that our closest stellar neighbor is “filled with interesting new worlds” within the scope of further study and future exploration, said João Faria, a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics and Science. in Portugal and main author of the study.

Scientists believe the planet orbits about 2.4 million miles (4 million km) from Proxima Centauri, meaning it’s closer to the star than its habitable zone where the temperature range is ideal for let the water flow freely. Details are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Named Proxima d, the planet is the third – and lightest – to be spotted around Proxima Centauri, which at four light years is the closest star to the solar system. It joins Proxima b, a planet with a mass comparable to Earth’s, which completes an orbit every 11 days, and Proxima c, which would take about five years to orbit the star.

The first hints of the planet came in 2020 when astronomers observed Proxima Centauri to confirm the existence of Proxima b. The measurements revealed a faint signal in the motion of the star that was characteristic of being caused by a planet orbiting every five days.

Other observations taken with an instrument on ESO’s telescope called Espresso confirmed astronomers’ suspicions that a planet was the cause and not changes in the star itself.

“It’s a very low-mass planet, and it’s the third candidate around the star closest to us,” Faria said. “It shows that these Earth-like planets may be common in our galaxy, and right next to it. And this makes us wonder about the possible conditions of habitability in these planetary systems and whether it is possible for life to appear in other places in the universe.

Comments are closed.