New exoplanet discovered in the system of the star closest to the Sun

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of astronomers used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to look for signs of another planet in the Proxima Centauri system, the closest star to the Sun.

This candidate planet was the third planet discovered in this planetary system, and the least massive planet ever discovered in orbit around this star. With a mass about a quarter that of Earth, this planet is also one of the lightest planets ever discovered in the history of space observations.

“This discovery shows that there are interesting new planets in the system of our nearest stellar neighbor that can be observed and studied in the future,” explains João Faria, researcher at the Astrophysical Research Institute, Portugal, and lead author of the new study. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun and lies just over four light-years away.

This newly discovered planet, Proxima d, orbits Proxima Centauri in an orbit with a radius of about four million kilometers, less than one-tenth the distance between Mercury and the Sun.

It is located between the star and its habitable zone – the region of space around the star, in which water can exist on the surface of the planet in liquid form – and makes one revolution around the parent star within 5 days.

In the system of this star, two other planets are already known: Proxima b, which has a mass approximately like that of the Earth, which revolves around the star with a period of 11 days and lies within the boundaries of the habitable zone, as well as the candidate planet Proxima c, which has a much larger orbital period, amounting to approximately 5 years.

The planet Proxima b was discovered several years ago using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-meter telescope of the European Southern Observatory.

This discovery was confirmed in 2020 when scientists observed the Proxima system with a new, higher-precision instrument on the Very Large Telescope called the Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO).

It was during these new observations with the Very Large Telescope that astronomers noticed the first hints of a signal corresponding to an object with an orbital period of 5 days.

Since the signal was very weak, the team had to make additional observations with the ESPRESSO instrument to confirm its planetary nature. These observations made it possible to use the method of radial velocities,


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