(ORDO NEWS) — Unexpectedly for everyone, an international group of scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) confirmed that a planet strikingly similar to the Earth is in the orbit of the closest star to the Earth in the Solar System. The results of the study were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Scientists confirm that the planet known as Proxima b has a mass of 1.17 Earth masses and is located in the habitable zone of its star. The discovery was made possible by measuring radial velocity using ESPRESSO, a Swiss spectrograph mounted on a large telescope in Chile. This spectrograph is considered the most accurate at the present time.
Proxima b was first discovered four years ago using an older spectrograph, the HARPS, also developed by the Geneva team, which measured a faint perturbation of the speed of a star, suggesting the presence of a satellite.
The ESPRESSO spectrograph measured the radial velocity on the star of Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.2 light years from the Sun, with an accuracy of 30 centimeters per second (cm / s). This is about three times higher than the accuracy of its predecessor. Here is what Alejandro Suarez Mascareno, the main author of the article, said:
“Confirming the existence of Proxima b was an important task, it is one of the most interesting planets known in the vicinity of the Sun.”
ESPRESSO measurements showed that the minimum mass of Proxima b is 1.17 Earth masses (the previous estimate was 1.3), and that it makes a revolution around its star in just 11.2 days.
Despite the fact that Proxima b is about 20 times closer to its star than the Earth to the Sun, it receives comparable radiation from its star, so its surface temperature may well have the existence of liquid water.
However, before saying that Proxima b is the most ideal candidate for research in the search for alien life, scientists still have a lot of observations to make. In particular, find out if there is an atmosphere on this planet.
This question is relevant, since the Proxima star itself is an active red dwarf that constantly attacks the planet in orbit with X-rays, the volume of which is about 400 times greater than the one that the Earth receives from the Sun.
In the future, researchers intend to build an even more powerful spectrometer called RISTRETTO. It will be specially designed to detect the light emitted by Proxima b.
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