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Scientists Explore if Climate of Proxima B in Alpha Centauri Could Support Alien Life

May 17, 2017 11:35 AM EDT
A journey to Proxima Centauri and its planet
Scientists started looking into the climate in Proxima B. They think that the habitable planet may have the right conditions to hold life.
(Photo : European Space Observatory (ESO)/YouTube Screenshot)

Exoplanet Proxima B from the star system Alpha Centauri is believed to be habitable having been found in the habitable zone. Scientists have begun exploring if its climate could also support alien life.

The potentially habitable planet Proxima B is about 4.2 light-years away from Earth. The European Space Observatory (ESO) announced that the planet may have the right conditions to hold life. Since then, various research and projects were developed to further explore the exoplanets including Stephen Hawking's Project Starshot.

"Overall, our results are in agreement with previous studies in suggesting Proxima Centauri B may well have surface temperatures conducive to the presence of liquid water," the authors said in the recent paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

In order to become suitable for life, first, scientists must discover if Proxima B has the right climate conditions. It is almost the size of the Earth and could have even the same kind of atmosphere.

The first tentative steps aimed at exploring the climate on Proxima B were initiated by researchers from the University of Exeter. Given its location in the habitable zone, it is assumed that the planet also receives the right amount of sunlight in order to hold water on its surface.

The researchers created a simulated model of Proxima B and subjected it to the Met Office Unified Model used to study if Proxima B has the same climate as Earth. The researchers also performed several other scenarios to study the climate of Proxima B.

The result, Proxima B could have a stable climate regime where life may thrive. However, the simulation alone is not enough to conclude that Proxima B is indeed habitable. Nevertheless, the data is the first step in understanding the climate of the exoplanets. Their study also revealed interesting facts about the exoplanets.

"One of the main features that distinguishes this planet from Earth is that the light from its star is mostly in the near infra-red," Dr. James Manners, one of the authors of the paper said in a statement. "These frequencies of light interact much more strongly with water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which affects the climate that emerges in our model."

In addition, the researchers believe that the study will not just explore Proxima B's climate but it will lead them to understand how the Earth's climate will eventually evolve.

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