ESOcast 87: Planet found around closest Star

ESOcast 87: Planet found around closest Star


The results of the Pale Red Dot campaign — the quest to find a planet orbiting the closest star to the Solar System — have now been announced. Astronomers have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri. This alien world is the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System! This is the ESOcast! Cutting edge science and life behind the scenes at ESO, the European Southern Observatory. The search for other worlds has captivated imaginations throughout history, but only recently have we had the instruments able to detect worlds outside the Solar System. These extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, went undetected until 25 years ago. Today, thanks to advances in telescope technology, astronomers have detected over three thousand. And now the scientists behind the Pale Red Dot campaign have made a milestone discovery. They have discovered clear evidence for a potentially habitable planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. Using the HARPS spectrograph on ESO’s 3.6 metre telescope at La Silla in Chile, astronomers spent the first half of 2016 looking for the tiny back and forth wobble of the star caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet. They were trying to build on 16 years of earlier observations that hinted of the presence of a planet, but were inconclusive. Combining the data with observations from a network of telescopes around the world, the researchers confirmed the detection of an alien world. It’s at least 1.3 times as massive as the Earth and orbits Proxima Centauri every 11.2 days. It was no easy task to identify the planet, however. Red dwarfs like Proxima Centauri are active stars prone to flares, and can vary in ways that would mimic the presence of a planet. To exclude this possibility, the team carefully monitored the brightness of the star with a network of telescopes to ensure they didn’t misidentify such an important discovery. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this research is that the exoplanet, called Proxima b, orbits within the habitable zone of its star. This means that liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. If it were much closer the heat from the star would boil the water away. And if it were further out the planet’s water would freeze solid. Since liquid water is essential for life as we know it, this makes Proxima b the closest exoplanet to Earth that may harbour life. However, the same stellar activity that made Proxima b so difficult to spot could also make it an inhospitable abode for life — the planet’s surface is bathed by intense ultraviolet and X-ray radiation. The planet also orbits Proxima Centauri extremely closely, only 5% of the Earth Sun distance. It is still a matter of debate whether a planet so close to its star could support life. Proxima b’s closeness to the Earth makes it an intriguing target in the search for extraterrestrial life. Astronomers will use the next generation of telescopes such as ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope to make an intensive study of this fascinating alien world in the hope of finding evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe. And if interstellar probes become a reality Proxima b may be their first destination. Scientific knowledge of exoplanets has grown has grown hugely in the last 25 years. With this discovery, and armed with ESO’s next generation telescope, we may soon be within reach of answering the age old question — are we alone? Transcription by ESO; translation by —

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

73 Comments

  1. If this planet has an atmosphere and is tidally locked so that the same side always faces the star (like how our Moon is tidally locked with the Earth) I wonder whether there is life on the dark side or near the day-night terminator or underground, shielded from the UV and X-rays!

  2. The Twitter for Kepler (a space based telescope) told me last year that from their data it seems that 15% to 25% of stars have Earth mass planets in their habitable zone! Exciting!

  3. you must be all stupid to believe this again !!! where are those scientists ? where are there ? they have never existed !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. why do they always look for water first – the only proof that water is needed for life is here in earth.
    what if there is no water or oxygen but there are species that don't need water to be alive for exaple they are something like robots

  5. i've seen / read these news about discovering earthlike planet with posible life for about 10 times this and last year :/

  6. Next news I want to hear is from SETI telling us they're picked up radio signals from this planet. Come on Seth, give us some good news.

  7. I beg to differ concerning whether this is a question of FAITH. It actually is! Until we know for sure that we are not alone, to believe we are not alone right now, which I firmly do, is an exercise in faith and faith alone. But one day, if we don't destroy ourselves first, we WILL learn for sure that we've never been alone.

  8. Life Force didn't limit its power and influence to this little spot in this one Galaxy. Remember that many religious texts speak of an omnipotent "God." Stating unequivocally that this is IT, is placing limits on the Omnipotent One! That's blasphemy.

  9. Man this is really stupid, why people think that you can analyze the light and predict that some distance star is actually earth like planet. It can be true, but you should know what we see in space is past, events which already happen (do you know how long the light travels?), we got only a screenshot from some time point , my best guest by the time when we arrive to the star (takes at least 200 years) will be probably disappointment or our next generation wouldn't know what to do with this discovery. Anyway i assume this is another hype campaign for tax payers to finance non important science projects.If you ask me was it worth to finance the research of distant star, i would definitely say NO, we don't need that kind of research!

  10. Ну что господа-русофобы, ЛЕТИМ к звезде ??? =))) Скидывайте бабки Путину =)) И быть может по аукциону вас и возьмем с собой…

  11. the planet needs name putin-Huilo like the star – http://pcmworldnews.com/news/2014/07/star-named-putin-is-a-d-head-becomes-permanent/ )
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putin_khuilo!

  12. humans just arn't innovative enough this is one of the greatest discoveries in the history of mankind and if a video of Kim Kardashian twerking was uploaded it would have millions more views and be much more talked about and noticed its sad really we are going to get no where like this.

  13. I wish Yank women would cop a clue from how this woman talks. She does not block her nose and sound like a nasal drip. She uses her mouth AND her nose to speak, and she sounds wonderful. Note also the complete absence of vocal fry, also beloved of Yank women. Yuk!!! Enough with those whiney, croaking Yank women.

  14. Too much radiation. 400 times more than on the Earth. It's much worse than one giant Pripyat Stalker zone there, it's not habitable. And practically useless for humanity. So relax your butts fellas.

  15. the centari system is not the closest star to us. a binary darkstar is 2.2 light years away at a 45 degree angle to our solar plane in the opposite direction than the centauri systems are to us. about half the distance. centauri is below us like sliding down a slide,  and the darkstar is above us at the similar angle.

  16. It blows my mind that this type of discovery isnt going viral. THIS IS HUGE!!! im so excited to be living in this time period despite all the bs politics and govt.

  17. Oh my God, what an animation. NASA always have no time to use the Telescope? They spend years building fraud videos. Always the same Earth, same marbles, same images. Genius talented liars. Only sheep nowadays believe you.

  18. Love this but … The nearest possibility for life outside the solar system doesn't seem to be evidence based. ;P

  19. Estaremos sós neste vasto universo?? Uma pergunta que ainda não obteve resposta!!! Somos os únicos seres inteligentes? Acreditar ou não eis a questão?? Existir ou não existir?? No entanto há certos retratos extra que intrigam …como pinturas rupestres…rudimentares mas muito perceptíveis…como na idade média quadros pintados …O foco é Graal das pesquisas que nunca mais se detenha a continuidade de conhecimento e de desistir de encontros com outras vidas!! Que nos trará esta busca??

  20. It's probably tidally locked, so there'd be a habitable band around the terminator. Winds would be high from temperature differentials between perpetual noon and perpetual midnight. Life is still feasible, though.

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