Earth-sized Planet Found in Habitable Zone of Nearest Star
Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have just found and confirmed evidence that there is an Earth-like planet orbiting our nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Preliminarily the world has been named Proxima b, which is a rocky planet slightly larger than Earth. The temperature on the surface of Proxima b is in the ranges at which water can exist, exciting many.
While the exoplanet orbits Earth's nearest star, it is still four light-years away from our solar system, according to the ESO. The parent star was observed earlier this year using the HARPS spectrograph at the ESO. HARPS is a 3.6-meter telescope situated at the main observatory in La Silla, Chile. The team of astronomers was led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé, which first noticed the exoplanet by the slight wobble of Proxima Centauri.
[Image Source: ESO]
“The first hints of a possible planet were spotted back in 2013, but the detection was not convincing. Since then we have worked hard to get further observations off the ground with help from ESO and others. The recent Pale Red Dot campaign has been about two years in the planning.” ~ Guillem Anglada-Escudé
As part of the Pale Red Dot campaign, a research initiative to confirm the existence of this exoplanet, teams worked for the last 3 years on the project. Astronomers were able to clock the wobble of Proxima Centauri at an oscillating 5 km/hr. The oscillations were found to have a period of 11.2 days, and using slightly more in-depth data from this analysis, the team was able to confirm the size and orbit of the exoplanet.