Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest StarSo this is kind of a big deal. Astronomers have just discovered a new planet orbiting the closest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri. The planet is called Proxima b and orbits the star every 11.2 days. It has a mass that is estimated to be 1.3 times the Earth’s. Unlike the Earth, though, it’s only 7.3 million kilometers from the star—much closer than Earth to the Sun—but Proxima is so faint and cool it receives about two-thirds the amount of light and heat the Earth does. Essentially that means that it’s in Proxima’s habitable zone which opens the possibility of liquid water on its surface.
Researchers estimate that if the planet has an atmosphere (which isn’t confirmed), it may be between 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. Without an atmosphere, it could be -22 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, Earth would be -4 degrees if it didn’t have an atmosphere.
Before we go all Interstellar and have Matthew McConaughey check it out, though, it is 40 trillion km away, which means even the fastest ship would still take tens of thousands of years to get there!
LEARN MORE (via Slate)