Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Vulcan, then Tatooine, and now Krypton has been found?

An artist's rendering of what the surface of Proxima b might resemble.

Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf in the constellation Centaurus, is the closest star to us (except for our sun).  It lies a little over four light-years from here and astronomers using the European Southern Observatory telescopes have announced evidence of a planet orbiting the red dwarf.  What is most exciting about this is the planet is in the 'sweet zone', the optimum distance from a star where liquid water (and therefore, life) can exist on the surface.

It is the closest exo-planet to Earth that could sustain life.  The Pale Red Dot team took its name from an image from Voyager 1, taken in 1990.  It took a picture of Earth and was called the Pale Blue Dot.  Since Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf see where this is going.

Okay, so it isn't Krypton.  Everybody knows that Krypton exploded years and years ago and even before that, it was about fifty light-years from Earth.  But it still exciting to find a planet so (relatively) close to us.  It presents the perfect stepping stone as the first planet to explore as we venture into deep space.

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star - Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri: Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016.

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