Back in August, astronomers announced the discovery of what appears to be an Earthlike exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri – a red dwarf star in our closest neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri.
Named Proxima b, the planet is just 4.25 light-years away, and there were early signs that it’s rocky just like Earth, and is the right distance from its star to sustain liquid water. Now scientists have found evidence that it could in fact be “covered” in oceans of liquid water.
Just to put in perspective how cool the discovery of Proxima b was, before we found evidence of its Earthlike qualities, the closest known, potentially habitable exoplanet was Wolf 1061c – and it’s 14 light-years away. That’s 126 trillion kilometres from Earth.
Proxima b has since shifted that goalpost to just 4.25 light-years away, which is still 40 trillion km – or 271,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun – but there’s already a plan in place to get spacecraft there in 20 years.
To put it another way, this thing is so close to us, we can actually see two stars in its star system – Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B – in the night sky. In fact, Alpha Centauri A is the fourth-brightest star seen from Earth.
Now a team led by researchers at the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory in France has strengthened the case of Proxima b’s habitability by calculating a number of size and surface properties in more detail than ever before.
The picture those properties paint is a planet covered in liquid water oceans that could potentially sustain life.
Source: Our closest Earthlike planet appears to be “covered” in water – ScienceAlert