Earth, meet your closest cousin, Proxima b.
Just in case you’re fed up with this planet, and have been waiting on Mars to become fully human-friendly, your prayers may have been answered. According to CNN, the closest “potentially habitable” planet in our solar system has just been found.
As Ashley Strickland writes, “…researchers have confirmed the existence of a rocky planet named Proxima b.” The new planet orbits around the closest star to our sun: Proxima Centauri.
What makes Proxima b potentially livable is where it’s situated: within what is known as the “habitable zone” of its main star. The location could allow for the possible existence of water. Still, Proxima b is still centuries away from hosting human life. “Because of its location, the researchers hope it provides an opportunity for possible ‘robotic exploration in the coming centuries,’” Strickland explains.
Researchers hope that, if the planet has an atmosphere—which hasn’t been verified yet—it’s likely that the climate would be similar to ours, ranging from 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the ground. Without an atmosphere, Proxima b would not be livable.
While the temperatures might be comfortable, other factors pose concerns for hopes of civilization. According to Strickland, given the relatively short distance between Proxima b and Proxima Centauri, the planet could be susceptible to ultraviolet and X-ray flares from the sun at 100 times the intensity we’re exposed to here. So, although you might not need a jacket on Proxima b, you’ll surely need sunscreen.
Still, just because the conditions found on Proxima b might allow for the existence of water doesn’t mean there’s actually H20 there. Likewise, the condition of the atmosphere has yet to be confirmed.
With the discovery of Proxima b, the potential for research has only just begun. There are a number of factors relating to its habitability that will be addressed in the coming years—specifically, whether it is Earthlike or not, which would speak volumes about its potential “livability.”
But, for now, it appears that this is one giant leap for mankind—at least as far as an understanding of our solar system is concerned.