In 2016, a team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory discovered an exoplanet, Proxima b, located in a nearby system called Proxima Centauri. The information sparked lots of discussions since the exoplanet appeared to orbit the habitable zone of its star, which might mean that it could sustain life, while it’s the closest rocky planet to Earth to meet met this particular condition.
Several studies focused on the planet, attempting to answer a simple question: is that planet able to sustain life? Until now the results have been mostly negative, due to the variables of that solar system and the fact that the planet is tidally-locked to its star.
A new study conducted by researchers from the Carl Sagan Institute offers a different take as it claims that life could survive on Proxima b. Two specialized researchers elaborated the study. They observed the amount of UV flux present on the surface of a planet which orbited a red dwarf star and compared the data with similar conditions that were present on primordial Earth.
Proxima b, the nearest exoplanet, might sustain life
Many researchers debated the habitability of systems which contain red dwarfs. One of the most common traits is the fact that they can be found in high number throughout the universe. It is estimated that at up to 85% of the stars found in the Milky Way are red dwarfs. Red dwarfs are very resilient, and they can survive trillions of years. It seems that rocky planets favor this type of star since they are often found near them. This theory is reinforced by the fact that a high number of rocky planets was found near red dwarfs.
It is essential to keep in mind the fact that red dwarf stars aren’t the best when it comes to habitability since they are quite unstable and tend to release flare-ups. The flares will emit a large amount of high-energy UV radiation which can shred the atmosphere of a planet and eradicate life.
The results of the study suggest that life could exist on Proxima b in a primitive stage, but further research is needed. At least, according to the researchers, we now know that the nearest exoplanet might sustain life. The study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.