DR. SKY BLOG

Second planet discovered in Proxima Centauri star system

Jan 22, 2020, 3:15 PM
(ESA/Hubble Photo)...
(ESA/Hubble Photo)

The nearest star to Earth is, of course, the sun.

The nearest star system to Earth, beyond the sun, is the interesting star system known as Proxima Centauri.

A red dwarf star located 4.244 light years away, Proxima, meaning “nearest,” was discovered back in 1915 by astronomer Robert Innes.

The star is a most amazing red dwarf, in that it has a small group of planets which orbit this star.

Proxima Centauri is part of a larger and better known star, Alpha Centauri, one of the brightest stars in the southern hemisphere.

This is a triple star system with the primary, Alpha, also known as Rigel Kentaurus and Beta, known as the star, Toliman.

Alpha is 4.37 light years from the sun.

In the great 1960s science fiction TV series, “Lost in Space,” the Robinson family boarded the Jupiter 2 spacecraft Oct. 16, 1997, headed towards an encounter with an Earth-like planet orbiting the Alpha Centauri star system.

Sadly, they did not make it there, as they ran off course and thus, “Lost in Space.”

Here is the video link to that amazing launch.

But science fiction now meets science reality, with the recent discovery of another possible habitable planet surrounding the nearest of stars to Earth and sun.

It all started back in 2016, when a team of astronomers discovered a small planetary world orbiting in the “habitable zone” of the Proxima star.

This tiny world may have the ingredients for life as we know it!

The tiny planet orbits Proxima at a distance of some 4.3 million miles and goes around the star in some 11 days.

Here is a graphic on the details of Proxima b.

Another small planetary object, Proxima c, was detected in 2019 and may be another candidate for some type of primitive life, or maybe much more.

Finally, to get an idea of just how far the Proxima star system is from Earth, we can say with certainty that if the distance of the sun and Earth were 1cm, Proxima would be 11km away from that.

To get there at conventional spacecraft velocity of today, the trip would take some 73,000 years.

To learn about the entire exoplanet catalog of known objects, visit this site.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

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Second planet discovered in Proxima Centauri star system