Habitable planet found in solar system next doorArchive
PARIS: Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.
Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.
The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.
“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he said. An exoplanet is any planet outside our solar system.
Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime”.
Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.
The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.
It has a mass of around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometres from its star.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016