New Planet Discovered Around Nearest Star

Ken AshfordScience & TechnologyLeave a Comment

…. and it might be a habitable planet.  As astronomy news goes, this is HUGE!

The planet, called Proxima Centauri b or just Proxima b (exoplanets are given their star’s name plus a lower case letter in order of discovery, starting with “b”), orbits Proxima every 11.2 days. It has a mass of no less than 1.3 times the Earth’s, so if it’s rock and metal like Earth it’s only a bit bigger. It’s a mere 7.3 million kilometers from the star — a lot closer than Earth’s distance from the Sun of 150 million km! — but Proxima is so faint and cool it receives about two-thirds the amount of light and heat the Earth does. That means that it’s in Proxima’s habitable zone: It’s possible (more or less) that liquid water could exist on its surface.

The European Southern Observatory put this together: