(ORDO NEWS) — Using the most modern astronomical instruments, an international team of researchers confirmed the existence of the earth-like exoplanet Proxima Centauri b (to simplify Proxima b), which revolves around the nearest star to us, Proxima Centauri.
“Confirming the existence of Proxim B was an important task. This is one of the most interesting planets in the vicinity of the Sun, ”commented Alejandro Suarez, lead author of the study.
It was found that the mass of Proxima b is 1.17 times the mass of the Earth and it makes a complete revolution around the red dwarf in 11.2 days.
“Determining the mass of a distant planet with such accuracy is an absolutely unheard of result,” said Michel Mayor, 2019 Nobel Prize laureate, who laid the foundation for the technologies that made it possible to make a discovery.
Proxima b was first discovered in 2016 thanks to a HARPS exoplanet hunting spectrograph mounted on one of the telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.
Having tested the innovative ESPRESSO spectrograph, which is three times more accurate than HARPS, we were able to confirm the discovery and refine key parameters.
“Then we were very pleased with the work of the HARPS spectrograph, which helped to search for exoplanets for 17 years. The ESPRESSO tool, which scientists have been working on for a decade, has become a present and a real find for us, ”said Francesco Pepe, professor of astronomy at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
Despite the fact that Proxima b rotates at such a close distance, the exoplanet still receives about the same amount of energy as the Earth receives from the Sun. Astronomers do not exclude the possibility of finding life there.
But there is bad news: the star of Proxima Centauri has a tendency to bombard any nearby objects with a ruthless amount of x-rays. Proxima b is irradiated approximately 400 times more intensively than the Earth.
“Is there an atmosphere that protects the planet from these deadly rays?” – the co-author of the discovery, Christophe Lovis, asks a logical question.
The answer to this and many other questions is likely to be given by the RISTRETTO spectrograph, which will be even more accurate and will surpass ESPRESSO in many respects. Active work is underway on it.
Proxima b is only 4.2 light years from Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us, which is potentially life-friendly. If we decided to get there using the most modern propulsion systems, then we would have to be patient as it would take us several thousand years to fly.
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