Proxima Centauri b, an Earth-size exoplanet located just 4.2 light-years away, orbits the closest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri.
Recent research, utilizing climate change simulation models, suggests that Proxima Centauri b has the potential to sustain large areas of liquid water on its surface, making it a candidate for habitability.
The study, led by planetary scientist Anthony Del Genio, indicates a decent chance of the exoplanet being habitable, boosting speculation about the presence of living organisms.
Proxima Centauri b is situated in its star’s habitable zone, receiving sufficient starlight to maintain surface temperatures above the freezing point of water, but its proximity to the star might have led to tidal locking.
Unlike previous simulations, the new models incorporate a dynamic, circulating ocean, revealing the possibility of a band of liquid water sustained around the equatorial region, challenging the concept of an “eyeball Earth.”
In a cosmic neighborhood merely 4.2 light-years from Earth, a captivating discovery has captivated astronomers’ attention. Proxima Centauri b, an Earth-size exoplanet, gracefully orbits the closest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri.
Since its identification in 2016, Proxima Centauri b has sparked intrigue regarding its potential habitability. Researchers, employing computer models analogous to those employed in studying Earth’s climate, have recently unearthed compelling evidence that Proxima Centauri b could host extensive liquid water on its surface, heightening the prospects for sustaining life forms.
The lead author of this groundbreaking study is Anthony Del Genio, a planetary scientist affiliated with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. Del Genio and his team utilized climate change simulation models to delve into the habitability of Proxima Centauri b.
Despite limited information about the exoplanet, such as its mass being at least 1.3 times that of Earth and an 11-day orbit around its parent star, the researchers ventured to make informed assumptions. Notably, they postulated the presence of an atmosphere and an ocean on Proxima Centauri b to advance their investigative efforts.
Situated within the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, Proxima Centauri b receives optimal starlight to maintain its surface above the freezing temperature of water. However, the proximity to the star raises the likelihood of tidal locking, where the same side of the exoplanet perpetually faces its parent star, akin to the moon’s relationship with Earth. Previous simulations hinted at an “eyeball Earth” scenario, with a star-facing hemisphere subjected to intense heat while a space-facing ocean remained frozen.
In a departure from prior models, the recent simulations conducted by Del Genio’s team introduced a dynamic, circulating ocean, adding a layer of complexity to their analysis. Surprisingly, the results defied earlier predictions, showcasing the efficacy of heat transfer across the exoplanet.
The interplay between the atmosphere and ocean engendered a novel outcome—despite the absence of starlight on the night side, a continuous band of liquid water materialized around the equatorial region, challenging the conventional notion of an “eyeball Earth.”
This revelation significantly alters the narrative surrounding Proxima Centauri b’s habitability, with Del Genio emphasizing the promising conditions for sustaining life. The comprehensive simulations contribute vital insights into the potential habitability of exoplanets, expanding our understanding of celestial bodies in the cosmic vicinity. As the scientific community continues to unravel the mysteries of distant worlds, Proxima Centauri b emerges as a tantalizing prospect in the search for habitable planets beyond our solar system.