Proxima Centauri is our closest neighboring star, which is only 4.2 light years away from us. For a long time, scientists believed that there was only one planet in the Proxima system – a potentially inhabited world called Proxima B. However, in a study published on sciencealert.com, scientists from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics reported discovering another planet in the system, which they have baptized Proxima S.
Super earth discovered near the solar system
Super-Earth is a planet whose mass is larger than the mass of the earth, but smaller than the mass of the ice giant Neptune. It was one such object that was discovered in Proxima Centauri's closest planetary system, where an exoplanet possibly suitable for organic life had already been found. Astronomer Mario Damasso, the lead author of the article, claims that Proxima C, if it exists, is most likely unsuitable for life because it is extremely far from the star.
Among other things, the location of Proxima C can make the exoplanet a really unique place. Astronomers believe that super-earths form around the so-called "snow line" – the distance to the star, where water turns into ice. In this area, when the star system is still in its infancy, small ice bodies accumulate into larger planets. However, recently discovered Proxima C violates this rule. It is known that the exoplanet is well above the snow line and its existence could call into question the generally accepted theory.
Read also: Scientists are ready to find traces of life on Proxima-b and in the Trappist system
To capture a large planet in an adjacent star system, the scientists used the radial velocity method, which is based on measuring the force of attraction between a star and a hypothetical object orbiting a distant star. The planets are in the orbit of the parent star and are easily attracted to stars, which in turn change the color of their glow. In the event that the changes are cyclical in nature, astronomers suggest that a nearby exoplanet may be the cause of this phenomenon.
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Damasso's team found that this type of periodic change has nothing to do with the Proxima B movement that was previously discovered. In search of signs of a second orbital planet, the scientists hope for a direct visualization of the system with data from the James Webb telescope, which is due to start in March 2021. With the new infrared technology built into the space telescope, researchers can get more data about nearby stars and the surrounding exoplanets, illuminating the existence of Proxima S.