Published on: Aug 29, 2016
A new announcement sent waves through the scientific community when it was announced that the Kepler space observatory had discovered a planet similar in size to earth that has all of the conditions needed for extraterrestrial life.
Named after the astronomer Johannes Kepler, the Kepler is a space observatory. It was launched into space on March 7th, 2009 by NASA. The Kepler mission was launched in hopes of discovering other Earth-like planets. These other planets orbit stars other than the Sun, but they are similar in size to the Earth.
On Wednesday, August 24th astronomers announced that they had discovered a habitable planet which may hold the potential for life. This planet is located in the neighboring solar system, and the planet is orbiting the star Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is a star similar to that of our own solar system’s, the Sun.
While the Kepler mission has discovered other planets, this particular planet’s discovery is vital in our ongoing search for life on other planets. The discovered planet has been named Proxima b.
Proxima b’s discovery is significant for its similarities to Earth, as well as the fact that it will one day be possible to reach. Even at 4.2 light-years away from Earth, this other planet is very close in terms of the universe's size and space.
An astronomer, Guillem Anglada-Escudé, is the leader of the team of astronomers who made the discovery of the planet, Proxima b.
Anglada-Escudé stated that the team was so excited, not because they found a terrestrial planet, but that they found one so close to the Earth. Scientist believed that they would find at some point other terrestrial planets which orbited stars.
The astronomers estimated that the planet Proxima b is about 1.3 times the mass of the Earth. It also has been estimated that the planet’s orbital cycle takes only about 11.2 days for it complete one orbit around the star.
The planet is much closer to the star which it orbits. Proxima b is roughly five million miles from the sun it orbits, whereas the Earth is about ninety-three million miles from the Sun.
The star, Proxima Centauri, in this new solar system is similar to the Sun from our solar system, however, it is much smaller and less bright.
The Proxima Centauri’s mass is estimated to be only twelve percent of the Sun’s mass, as well as only about 1/600th of the luminosity of the Sun. The Proxima Centauri’s light is so dim that from planet Earth it cannot be seen with the naked eye.