According to astronomers, the closest exoplanet to Earth could be highly habitable, raising hopes we are not alone in the cosmos.
Proxima Centauri is a star much smaller than the sun. And despite the fact that it is extremely close to our solar system, we know very little about the star and Proxima Centauri B, a planet dubbed as Earth 2.0. We do know that Proxima Centauri B orbits its host star every 11 days.
More importantly, scientists have found that the planet orbits its star in the habitable zone, which means that it is located just at the perfect distance to receive enough sunlight to maintain its surface above freezing temperature levels.
Scientists also say that while Proxima B orbits its star in the habitable zone, this zone is actually located very close to its star. This means that it is very likely that the planet is tidally locked thanks to gravitational forces.
So, what doe this mean? Well, it means that just as it happens with Earth’s Moon showing us the same face over and over again, Proxima Centauri B always faces its parent star with the same side over and over again.
The planet in question, Proxima Centauri B was discovered in 2016 for two years have scientists wondered whether this Earth-like alien world could sustain life as we know it.
Now, using computer models similar to those experts use to study the climate on Earth, astronomers found that under an extremely wide range of conditions, Proxima Centauri B could be home to massive areas of liquid water on its surface.
And if the planet is in fact tidally locked to its parent star, it would mean that the side which faces away from the sun has freezing captures, and ay oceans on that side would probably be frozen.
However, that doesn’t mean the side that faces the sun has the same problem.
And we all know that where there is water, there is life.
“The major message from our simulations is that there’s a decent chance that the planet would be habitable,” said Anthony Del Genio, a planetary scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. Del Genio is also the lead author of a paper describing the new research, which was published Sept. 5 in the journal Astrobiology.
‘Climate models with static oceans suggest that Proxima b could harbor a small dayside surface ocean despite its weak instellation,’ the researchers explain in the new study.
In the study, scientists explained that “with a dynamic ocean, a hypothetical ocean-covered Proxima Centauri b with an atmosphere similar to modern Earth’s can have a habitable climate with a broad region of open ocean, extending to the nightside at low latitudes.”