The closest to the Earth exoplanet may be habitable

James Marshall
September 20, 2018

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster for scientists studying Proxima b-an Earth-like planet sitting around our solar system's nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri.

The first possible "second home" for humanity scientists call an exoplanet in the constellation Proxima Centauri. "Without those, life as we know it can not exist", study co-author Anthony Del Genio, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Universe Today.

Unfortunately, multiple studies proved disheartening, often indicating that the orb's sun experiences too much flare activity to sustain an atmosphere or liquid water on its surface. Their research was published recently in the journal Astrobiology. It is moving across the planet water. "Or it could have formed with a modest atmosphere and lots of water". Or it could have formed with a very thick atmosphere. Based on the data, on Proxima Centavra B has water, even if she turned to the star only on one side.

The team modeled a range of potential atmospheres, including ones like Earth (dominated by nitrogen with small amounts of CO2) and Mars (pure CO2).

New simulations have ended up revealing more than those from 2016 that hypothesized about what the atmosphere of Proxima b could be like.

NASA image of Alpha Centauri
Proxima Centauri the star orbited by Proxima b. Credit NASA

"For each configuration that we imagine, we run a 3D global climate model that is adapted from the Earth climate model that we use to project 21st century warming", Del Genio explained.

Nevertheless, as noted in the study, there are many scenarios in which a planet could be and still remain inhabited.

In every case the scientists could dream up, Proxima b had at least some surface liquid water, giving it a "pretty good chance" of being habitable, Del Genio said. He believes a dynamic ocean circles the entire equatorial region, an ocean whose waters circulate and transfer heat throughout, kind of like the Gulf Stream currents cool off the West Coast. It gets blasted with X-rays and UV rays that corrode the atmosphere with photoevaporation, not to mention supersonic winds that couldn't possibly be conducive to life as we know it. "And if the ocean is very salty, nearly the entire planet could be covered by liquid, but with temperatures below the usual freezing point nearly everywhere".

Proxima b exoplanet in orbit of Proxima Centauri may be habitable, says "bi-Bi-si" with reference to a NASA study. The Kepler space observatory, launched back in 2009, has discovered thousands of planets over its lifetime.

This article has been updated with further comment from Anthony Del Genio.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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