ESO’s Discovery of Our Closest Habitable Planet Proxima b (VIEW VIDEO)

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"The planet could be an 'ocean planet'with an ocean covering its entire surface, and similar to some icy moons around Jupiter or Saturn," according to the international team at the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory (CNRS / Aix-Marseille Université).


Proxima b, the Earth-sized, rocky exoplanet of our nearest star, may in fact be covered in 200-kilometer deep oceans of liquid water that could contain life. Proxima b gained international attention this past August when years of research into the planet showed it may have the right conditions to support life. In a study to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the team determined that the dimensions and properties of the surface of Proxima b “actually favor its habitability.”

 

 

 

Proxima b was discovered this August orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light years away from Earth. The planet is around 1.3 times the size of Earth, but orbits at a distance of 4.6 million miles from its sun, a tenth of the distance that our own Solar System’s Mercury orbits at from our Sun. The exoplanet's star is about 12 percent the mass of our own Sun, and much dimmer. Hence, the habitable zone is shifted towards the star, meaning Proxima b could be nestled right where liquid water—and life—could propagate.

"In both cases, a thin, gassy atmosphere could surround the planet, like on Earth, rendering Proxima b potentially habitable," the scientists concluded.

Scientists suggested that the planet would be too hot for liquid water, as its distance from Proxima Centauri would leave its oceans “tidally locked” and facing the star—left to heat up to uninhabitable temperatures or even boil off. But the researchers at CNRS have rebutted that idea, for now.

"Contrary to what one might expect, such proximity does not necessarily mean that Proxima b's surface is too hot for water to exist in liquid form,” said the research team in a statement.

The Daily Galaxy via ESO, insu.cnrs.fr, and motherboard.com

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