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Is The Climate On Exoplanet Proxima B Suitable To Sustain Life?

17 May 2017, 6:38 am EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
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New 'Earth-like' planet hailed as most important found outside the Solar System

A team of meteorology and astrophysics experts from the University of Exeter undertook a new study to observe the climate of newly-discovered exoplanet Proxima Centauri B also known as Proxima B.

The newly-discovered exoplanet revolved around its own star called Proxima Centauri, which is also the closest star from Earth — at a distance of 4.2 light years.

The new study to understand the climate of the Proxima B has been undertaken to reveal if the exoplanet has the necessary habitat to support life. Proxima B's favorable distance from its star Proxima Centauri has long supported the theory that it may hold alien life or have environment conducive for human settlement.

Proxima B's Climate: How Was It Tested?

Proxima B was discovered in August 2016 and is deduced to be the same size as Earth. The same size and distance from its sun led to the creation of the theory that the exoplanet may have an "Earth-like" atmosphere.

Previous studies suggested that it is located in the habitable zone of its star Proxima Centauri, which may lead to the presence of liquid oceans similar to Earth. The theory of the presence of the liquid oceans on Proxima B was based on the hypothesis that the exoplanet would receive the right amount of light to sustain the liquid form.

The researchers — with the help of the Met Office Unified Model — are presently taking tentative steps to study the climate of the Earth-like exoplanet to understand if it can indeed support life. The state-of-the-art Met Office Unified Model has been used for decades to study Earth's climate, its composition, and changes.

Results Of The Study

During the course of the study, the researchers simulated the exoplanet's atmosphere — if it were to boast similar conditions as that of our planet.

They studied a simple composition of the exoplanet atmosphere, which comprised nitrogen (with traces of carbon dioxide) along with the variations of Proxima B's orbit. This enabled the scientists to go beyond previous studies, as well as compare the new study's results with the earlier ones.

The researchers found that the Proxima B exoplanet has favorable surface temperatures that can support the presence of water in its liquid form. The 3:2 resonance and the tidally-locked configurations together resulted in some planet regions hosting liquid water. It was also discovered that "the expectation of an eccentric orbit" can raise the chances of "habitability of this world."

Other than exploring the similarities between Earth and exoplanet Proxima B, the researchers also looked for differences between the two.

"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. These frequencies of light interact much more strongly with water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which affects the climate that emerges in our model," co-author of the paper James Manners explained.

The key findings of the study have been published in journal Astronomy & Astrophyics on Tuesday, May 16.

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