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Click here for Linda Moulton Howe's 2017 Bio.

Proxima Centauri, Closest Star to Earth, Has Exoplanet Where
Temperature and Water Might Make It Habitable

© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe

 

“One of the main features that distinguishes this planet from Earth is that
the light from its star is mostly in the near infra-red. These frequencies of light
interact much more strongly with water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,
which affects the climate that emerges in our model [of Proxima Centauri and exoplanet.]”

- James Manners, Ph.D., Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal, May 16, 2017


The closest star system to the Earth is the famous Alpha Centauri group.
Located in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), at a distance
of 4.3 light-years, this system is made up of the binary formed by the stars
Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, plus the faint red dwarf Alpha
Centauri C, also known as Proxima Centauri. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space
Telescope has given us this stunning view of the bright Alpha Centauri
A (on the left) and Alpha Centauri B (on the right).

 

 

May 17, 2017 Baltimore, Maryland - The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope was photographing the closest star system to Earth in September 2016, and got this “best image of Alpha Centauri A and B ever photographed.


The closest star system to the Earth is the famous Alpha Centauri group of the binary
duo Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, plus a third faint red dwarf that has two
different names — Alpha Centauri C or Proxima Centauri. Hubble image Sept. 2016.


Located in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), at a distance of 4.3 light-years from Earth, this 3-star system is made up of the binary stars Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. Then there is a third faint red dwarf, Alpha Centauri C also known as Proxima Centauri. In the above NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image taken in September 2016, visible are Alpha Centauri A on the left and Alpha Centauri B on the right.

Compared to our solar system's G2V yellow sun, Alpha Centauri A is of the same stellar type, G2, and slightly bigger, while Alpha Centauri B, a K1-type star, and is slightly smaller. [ See star types in Websites below.] They orbit a common center of gravity once every 80 years, with a minimum distance of about 11 times the distance between Earth and the sun. Because these two stars are, together with their sibling Proxima Centauri, the closest to Earth, they are among the best studied by astronomers. And they are also among the prime targets in the hunt for habitable exoplanets.

Only a few days before the Hubble images of the binary stars, on August 24, 2016, astronomers announced in a worldwide web press conference the intriguing discovery of a nearly Earth-sized planet called Proxima B in the habitable zone orbiting the small red dwarf star Proxima Centauri.

 

Exoplanet Proxima B — Is It Habitable?

On May 16, 2017, in the science journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, physicist Ian Boutle, Ph.D., lead author and U. K. Met Office computer climate and atmosphere modeler, reports about his and other researchers on his team trying to confirm whether the temperature and water content around the exoplanet Proxima B could make the planet habitable. The computer modeling study was done by the U. K. Met Office software for a Unified Model of the 3-sun solar system. The scientists found that “the tidally-locked and 3:2 resonance configurations of the multiple sun and exoplanet resulted in more substantial areas of the planet being able to host liquid water.” They also found that the 3:2 resonance of the exoplanet and suns resulted in more substantial areas of Proxima B falling into a temperature range that could be habitable.

Dr. Boutle said: “Our research team looked at a number of different scenarios for the planet's likely orbital configuration using a set of simulations. As well as examining how the climate would behave if the planet was 'tidally-locked' (where one day is the same length as one year), we also looked at how an orbit similar to Mercury, which rotates three times on its axis for every two orbits around the sun (a 3:2 resonance), would affect the environment.”

His colleague, James Manners, Ph.D., added: “One of the main features that distinguishes this planet from Earth is that the light from its star is mostly in the near infra-red. These frequencies of light interact much more strongly with water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which affects the climate that emerges in our model.”

Another scientist, Dr. Nathan Mayne, is the scientific lead on exoplanet modelling at the U. K.'s University of Exeter. There is one of the U. K.'s largest astrophysics groups working on star formation and exoplanet research. They are also trying to understand how stars and planets form. Dr. Mayne explained that, “With the project we have at Exeter, we are trying to not only understand the somewhat bewildering diversity of exoplanets being discovered, but also exploit this to hopefully improve our understanding of how our own climate has and will evolve.”

Also see:

• 09/30/2016 — Part 1: Searching for Other Life and Dark Matter in This Universe

• 04/05/2016 — Interstellar Travel with Laser Light Propulsion


For further information about our solar system, please see reports in the Earthfiles Archive organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2016 ongoing of which a few are listed here.

• 01/27/2017 — Search Ongoing for 9th Planet, So Massive It Tilts Solar System Planets 6 Degrees
• 09/30/2016 — Part 1: Searching for Other Life and Dark Matter in This Universe
• 09/22/2016 — Is There Life in Europa's Huge Ocean?
• 07/02/2016 — NASA Photo Lab Tech Saw Negative of “Alien Object” On Moon Blacked Out
• 07/01/2016 — Former NASA Engineer Says 5 Structured Domes in Moon Crater Photo Blacked Out
• 06/16/2016 — NASA Announces Strange “New Asteroid 2016 HO3” Always Orbiting Earth While Both Orbit the Sun
• 07/18/2015 — Pluto Has 2-Mile-High Ice Mountains, Plains of “Bubbling” Ice and “Wind Swept” Smudges. Weather? Heating Convection?
• 03/27/2015 — What Heats the Bottom of the Enceladus Moon's Ocean to 194 Degrees Fahrenheit?
• 03/18/2015 — Persistent Dust Cloud and December 2014 Aurora On Mars Still Mysteries
• 03/12/2015 — Saturn's Moon Enceladus Might Have Warm Ocean Water Up to 194 Degrees Fahrenheit
• 03/30/2008 — Enceladus Water Geyers Full of Organic Chemicals
• 06/20/2007 — Update: What Is the Moving Light in Saturn's Rings? Answer: Opposition Effect
• 03/17/2006 — Planet Earth's Ice Melt
• 05/06/2005 — What Are The Straight Lines on Saturn's Titan Moon?
• 02/17/2005 — Iapetus and Enceladus: Baffling Moons of Saturn


Websites:

Our Solar System's Sun: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun

Alpha Centauri System, May 16, 2017, EarthSky:
http://earthsky.org/brightest-stars/alpha-centauri-is-the-nearest-bright-star

Star Classifications: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_classification

"Scientists Take First Tentative Steps to Explore Potential Climate of Proxima B Exoplanet," May 16, 2017, Phys.org: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-scientists-tentative-explore-potential-climate.html


 

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