Proxima B, Nearest Earth-Like Planet, May Have Water Ocean

Posted: Oct 8 2016, 4:37am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 8 2016, 4:44pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Proxima b, Nearest Earth-Like Planet, may have Water Ocean
Artist's impression of the planet Proxima b, orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri. Credit: ESO

The planet may host liquid water on its surface. Therefore, it could support life too.

Proxima Centauri b, an exoplanet outside our solar system, stirred a lot of interest in scientific community when its discovery was announced earlier this year.

The planet is believed to have atmospheric features similar to that of Earth, which are considered necessary for supporting life. The planet orbits a red dwarf called Proxima Centuari 4.2 light years away in the ‘just right’ habitable zone, meaning its temperatures is not too hot neither too cold but just moderate enough to maintain liquid water on its surface. And a latest research also suggests that the planet is likely covered in water. 

Researchers from French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) say that Proxima Centauri possibly harbors a vast liquid water ocean.

“The planet may very well host liquid water on its surface, and therefore also some forms of life.”CNRS said in a statement.

Called “the biggest exoplanet discovery since the discovery of exoplanets,” Proxima Centauri b has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth and it takes 11.2 days to complete an orbit around its star. A planet orbiting about 7.5 million around a stars does not seems to have exactly the right distance to be potentially habitable but it should not be a problem in the case of Proxima Centuari b because its host star Proxima Centuari is 1,000 times weaker than our Sun, putting the planet in the category of potentially habitable planets. 

When researches created simulations to estimate the planet's composition and radius based on its apparent size, they found that radius of the planet could be between 0.94 and 1.4 times that of Earth.

If we take the lowest limit, its radius would be roughly 5,990 kilometres, and in that scenario, the planet would be very dense and would be surrounded by a rocky mantle.

But if we take the upper limit into consideration or 8,920 km, Proxima b's mass would likely have a rocky centre surrounded by water.

“In both cases, a thin, gassy atmosphere could surround the planet, like on Earth, rendering Proxima b potentially habitable.”



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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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