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Co-Discoverer Says Proxima B is a Life-Friendly Planet; Life Outside Earth Possible?

Sep 06, 2016 03:59 AM EDT
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One of the astronomers who discovered Proxima b, the closest of the thousands of exoplanets which was discovered in late August, said it could be a "life-friendly planet."

"Everything we know about Proxima b suggests that, although it is different, it shares similar features with the Earth such that it could be a life-friendly planet," Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, UK and co-discoverer of Proxima b told Astrowatch.net.

According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), who announced the discovery in a press release, Proxima b is four light-years away from Earth and can be found in Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth. It has a temperature/orbiting suitable for body of water and is a little more massive than Earth.

But can it really host life forms? Tuomi shared his insight to Astrowatch.net and explained how the exoplanet can feasibly harbor microbial forms because the three "ingredients" for life are likely present on it.

"First, we need rock, and Proxima b indeed is a planet that certainly has a rocky surface. Second, the most common molecule in the Universe, water, has to be present. We have no evidence of this, but water can be found everywhere in space and there are no reasons why it would not exist on the surface of Proxima b -- and the temperatures on its surface likely allow the water to be liquid and for oceans as well. Third, there needs to be carbon dioxide, but that is simply a common primitive atmospheric molecule on all the Earth-sized planets in the solar system," Tuomi said.

"If that is the case, I believe the formation biochemical processes we can call life is rather an inevitability than a once-in-a-blue-moon rare event," Tuomi added.

Tuomo clarified that although theoretical guesses prove the capacity of the Proxima b, there is still much work to be done and a longer time required to confirm it.

New Scientist notes that Proxima b and its star are probably tidally locked, meaning half of the globe is in never ending day, the other in infinite night. An international team lead by Guillem Anglada-Escudé of Queen Mary University of London discovered Proxima b through a project called Pale Red Dot.

Read:
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NASA's NEO Spots Space 'Junk' -- Unlikely Threat to Planet Earth?

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