Possible discovery of a new super-Earth orbiting Proxima Centauri

phys.org | 1/15/2020 | Staff
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Astronomers have discovered another candidate exoplanet orbiting our neighbor Proxima Centauri. A paper announcing these results was just published in the journal Science Advances. If confirmed, it will be the second exoplanet discovered to be orbiting the star.

It was big news in 2016 when astronomers discovered a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri (PC), the nearest star to our sun. That planet, named Proxima b, is potentially habitable, and at the time, there was speculation that we could send a robotic explorer there in only a few decades. The discovery of a second planet, even though it's likely too far away from its star for liquid water, is intensifying interest in the PC system.

Discoverers - Planet - Proxima - C - Observations

The discoverers of this new planet, Proxima c, say that follow-up observations are needed to confirm it as a planet. Changes in the stellar activity of Proxima Centauri indicated the presence of another planet. But they also say that the data they have can't be explained in terms of any stellar activity itself. Due to its proximity, and also its angular separation from the star, it is a prime candidate for follow-up observations—and even imaging—with next generation telescopes.

Proxima c's mass is about half that of Neptune and its orbit is about 1.5 times that of Earth. Its temperature is about -200 C, if it has no atmosphere. Proxima Centauri has undergone intense astronomical scrutiny in the last few years, and that has ruled out the presence of any Jupiter-sized planets between 0.8 and 5+ astronomical units from the star. But finding Proxima c is still surprising, because its presence challenges our models of how super-Earths form and evolve.

Author - Study - Mario - Damasso - INAF

The lead author of this study is Mario Damasso from the INAF Astrophysical Observatory of Turin, Italy. The study is titled "A low-mass planet candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri at a distance of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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