Researchers from Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics believe they have found another planet orbiting our neighbouring star, Proxima Centauri.
4.2 lightyears away, changes in the star’s behaviour have led the astrophysicists to believe that there is another planet in addition to the one already observed called Proxima b.
According to Science Alert, this new possible planet has also been speculated to be a Super-Earth, meaning it has a mass larger than Earth but is still smaller than Neptune.
This doesn’t make it inhabitable though, the estimated distance from the planet to its star would mean it would be cold and covered in a hydrogen-helium atmosphere.
“Just like our sun, Proxima has spots caused by regions of intense magnetic activity which are moving in and out of view, changing in intensity on a variety of timescales. These features need to be considered when searching for any planetary signals,” Hugh Jones, a Professor of Astrophysics at Hertfordshire University, who was involved in the study told The Conversation.
What is interesting is that if further observations observe this planet, confirming its existence, this will change how we think Super-Earths form. Astronomers currently believe that they form around the “snowline”, the closest distance to their star where water can become ice. But Proxima C is beyond the snowline, challenging this theory.
Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser