August 31, 2016

"During the first quarter of 2016, an international team of astronomers started an intensive and very public campaign to observe the red dwarf of the α Centauri system known as Proxima Centauri."

drew ex machina: Called the Pale Red Dot, the purpose of this project was to follow up on earlier radial velocity measurements which suggested that Proxima Centauri was orbited by a planet in a short-period orbit. by Andrew LePage

'After almost two weeks of unconfirmed reports and rumors, a team led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé (Queen Mary University of London) announced on August 24, 2016 that they had discovered a planet now called Proxima Centauri b. Not only did they confirm the existence of the previously suspected extrasolar planet, they found that it was an approximately Earth-mass planet orbiting comfortably inside the habitable zone (HZ) of its star. While this important discovery has been at the eye of a storm of media hype, what do we actually know about Proxima Centauri b and how Earth-like is it really?

'There have been a number of issues raised over the years about the ability of red dwarfs in general and Proxima Centauri in particular to support habitable planets. But at the same time there have been other studies which suggest otherwise, as can be seen among the number of papers submitted for publication at the same time the discovery of Proxima Centauri b was announced. Being so close to the Earth, Proxima Centauri b is perfectly situated to test these various ideas about the habitability of planets orbiting red dwarfs – potentially the most numerous class of habitable planet in our galaxy (see “Occurrence of Potentially Habitable Planets Around Red Dwarfs”). Along with the continued study of other potentially habitable worlds (and even the “near misses”) which have been discovered over the last few years, we stand to learn much no matter how the issue is resolved and get a better handle on where to look for life beyond our solar system.'

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