Proxima Centauri b – Our Newest Neighbour

This is the biggest exoplanet news ever. 4.25 light years away, a tiny red dwarf star has revealed something extremely important: a potentially Earth-like planet. The ESO announced today that they have discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri.

Artist's impression of Proxima Centauri b. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser. Source.
Artist’s impression of Proxima Centauri b. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser. Source.

So, how big is this planet? At least 1.3 times the size of Earth, or possibly up to 3 Earths. This would mean it’s either an Earth-like planet or a Super Earth. It is most likely to be terrestrial and due to its proximity to its star, it’s tidally locked. One side always faces its star. However, it’s in that very special place in a star’s orbit where liquid water can exist. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that ultraviolet and X-rays from Proxima Centauri could make the surface of the planet potentially uninhabitable. With that being said, life could thrive below the surface.

What would it be like on the planet, though? The side facing the star would be hot and blasted by radiation. The side facing away from the star would probably be extremely cold, possibly covered in ice. The area that’s perpetually at sunset would be the most habitable and comfortable. If there’s a significant atmosphere, then temperatures could be stabilised all around the planet, and likely to be a constant wind flowing from the day side to the night side.

Breakthrough Starshot, a project started by billionaire Yuri Milner, physicist Stephen Hawking, and others, now has a destination. This project, designed to send tiny probes at 20% the speed of light into interstellar space, could reach Proxima Centauri b in only 20 years, then another 4.25 years to transmit data back to the Earth. The probes would take pictures and send them back. However, the estimated launch date is 2060, so many of us today would unlikely get to see this. Well, I plan to be around in 2084. I’ll only be 107 years old. I want to see this planet!

This has a lot of people excited, including me. I really want to know more about this planet. I wish we could go now. To see the surface of a world orbiting another star would be the dream of any astronomer or astronomy enthusiast. This is big!

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27 thoughts on “Proxima Centauri b – Our Newest Neighbour”

  1. 2016. 2060 2084. == 68 actually my great-grands should still be around then. it is unlikely for me to expect to be alive at age 150 I’m afraid. but maybe Ill be back. note…my math is probably suspect… πŸ™‚

          1. yes, that’s true. My grandmother died at 75, which was considered old; HER mother was 93, which was ancient; my sister-in-law is 97…her mother was 96, her aunt 106. Men not as long-lived.

            1. Pretty impressive. All of my grandparents lived until at least 85. Oldest was my grandfather at 92. Sounds like I have a good chance to live a long life, since it’s often genetic.

            2. I’m only 39, and I’m finding I hurt in places I never thought I’d hurt 10 years ago. But my family has a history of back problems, and now I get back pain whenever I’m inactive.

            3. I have dreams like that, too. Exactly the same dreams. The ones where I can’t run are frustrating. It feels like I’m trying to run in water, but there’s no water.

            4. usually I’m at a mall or on a street, and I am struggling to move until I realize that I can fly, and I just sort of take off hovering. It’s very convenient. πŸ™‚

            5. ouch…my son suffers so much with back problems, arthritis…I always say I wish the kids had gotten MY bones instead of their Dad’s. I am most grateful.

    1. Screw eating healthy. It seems centenarians and super-centenarians have a history of unhealthy eating. It’s really genetic, I think. But my ancestors have all been long-lived, so i have a good chance of living to my 80s or 90s. If all else fails, I’ll deny death. I’ll just say “screw you” to death and keep living.

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