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This is What Life on Proxima B Would Look Like, According to MIT Scientist

Sep 13, 2016 05:19 AM EDT
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The Earth-next-door is one of the most popular subjects in the astronomical world today. Many have been wondering: What would life in Proxima b look like?

Discovered in August, Proxima b is a habitable exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which is part of the Alpha Centauri trinary star system. Not only was it found to have the potential to sustain life, it is also only 4.25 light-years away from Earth.

Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), had recently shared her thoughts about the would-be life on Proxima b in an article published in Quartz. Here are her speculations:

1. A stationary Sun

People visiting Proxima b could choose to either go to a place with eternal daylight or a spot where it is always nighttime or even a location where there is a permanent sunset. Because the exoplanet is so close to its star, the gravitational force from the star would cause the planet to be in a "tidally locked" state, in which a planet only shows one face to the star.

2. Your birthday happens every 11 days

One year on Proxima b is equal to 11 Earth days. This means people on Earth will be much older if they live on Proxima b.

3. People will weigh more

Proxima b may have a higher surface gravity than Earth, depending on the exoplanet's actual density and size, which will be determined once scientists will be able to explore the planet more.

4. It would be dark on the planet

Earthlings may have a hard time seeing on the planet, as Proxima b's sun is dim and red, Seager said.

5. You can't use electronic gadgets

Proxima b may be exposed to harmful ultraviolet radiation and huge solar flares, which would disable any type of electronics. Moreover, earthlings would have to protect themselves with powerful sunscreen.

"At the moment, astronomers are abuzz with ideas about how to study the planet's atmosphere, either later this decade after the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope or further in the future with the giant ground-based telescopes currently under construction in Chile and Hawaii," Seager said.

"I like to imagine that on a planet orbiting one of those stars, there may be aliens looking out at our own far-away sun, wondering the same thing."

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