Alien alert: an Earth-sized planet is “likely” to be harbouring lifeforms, scientists have announced after discovering the presence of water.
Proxima B was first spotted in 2016 and since then researchers have been attempting to find out more about what it could mean for space exploration.
Now they might have an answer – scientists at the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory (CNRS) have published a study in Astrophysical Journal Letters outlining their new discoveries about the mysterious planet.
The exoplanet (meaning it sits outside our solar system) orbits a star called Proxima Centauri, the closest to our own sun.
Proxima B is 1.17 times the mass of Earth and completes a total orbit of its star in just 11.2 days.
The planet is also 20 times closer to its sun than we are to ours.
However, because Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star, it is much cooler than our sun, leading scientists to think that Earth and Proxima B’s surface temperatures could be similar.
This means the planet is thought to exist in the ‘habitable zone’, aka it will support life.
This supposition is further strengthened by the discovery that Proxima B has seas and could even be an ‘ocean planet’.
The CNRS team have suggested the planet’s surface could be covered by “a single liquid ocean 200km deep”.
The presence of water and a habitable climate makes Proxima B “one of the best candidates to sustain life” study author Bastien Brugger said.
Among the thousands of exoplanets we have already discovered, Proxima B is one of the best candidates to sustain life.
The fact there could still be life on the planet today, not only during its formation, is huge.
The interesting thing about Proxima B is it is the closest exoplanet to Earth. It is really exciting to have the possibility that there is life just at the gates of our solar system.
There’s already been the suggestion that Proxima B will be the first planet outside our solar system to be explored by robots, although it would currently take 70,000 years to get there.
Distance, schmistance – there’s surely someone who can go poke around. We’ve heard Elon Musk is keen to do some digging around in space.
Surely we can spare him for a few decades? Or 7,000....