The Quest to Discover Proxima B –Closest Habitable Planet to Our Solar System (VIEW/European Southern Observatory Video)

 

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This is a video by the European Southern Observatory that you’ll not want want to miss. The ESO team discusses the result of the quest to find a planet around the closest star to the Solar System. 


The Pale Red Dot campaign aimed to find a planet orbiting our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri. Incredibly, the quest succeeded and the team did indeed find a planet. Even more excitingly, the planet, Proxima b, falls within the habitable zone of its host star. The newly discovered Proxima b is by far the closest potential abode for alien life.

 

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The ESO artist’s concept of a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b, is shown above. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than Earth.

The image below combines a view of the southern skies over the ESO 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile with images of the stars Proxima Centauri (lower-right) and the double star Alpha Centauri AB (lower-left) from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. (Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO/ESA/NASA/M. Zamani)

 

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Amazingly, the planet’s signal was hidden in the data for decades. Pale Red Dot noticed a weak signal reoccurring every 11.2 days. They used this potential find to secure support from the European Southern Observatory, and then they set out on an unprecedented confirmation campaign.

For months earlier this year, the astronomers kept a near-constant vigil on Proxima Centauri using ESO’s 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. Their radial velocity technique, which detects tiny wobbles as the planet pulls on its star, provided the stunning confirmation.

In this ESOcast, the results of this groundbreaking research are explained in detail, providing insights into the following points:

The extensive verification process the team went through to ensure this result was accurate.
The factors for and against the possibility of life on Proxima b.
The nature of a “habitable zone” around a star.
The discovery of Proxima b is a major science result, making this ESOcast a must for those of you curious about one of the most intriguing questions in astronomy — “are we alone?”

                                  

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