We’ve been neighbors for so long, but we are still learning new things about the star system next door, Proxima Centauri. For example, the presence of at least one dust belt reveals that it may be home to an elaborate planetary system.
The closest star to our planet other than the sun, Proxima Centauri has at least one rocky planet in its habitable zone. Discovered last year, this was labeled Proxima B. It is about 4 million kilometers from Proxima Centauri, which is cooler and fainter than our own Sun. Scientists consider that it is unlikely that this rocky planet could be habitable.
Proxima Centauri, More Crowded than Believed?
The latest observations of the ALMA Observatory in Chile revealed new information about Earth’s closest stellar neighbor. They hint at the fact that the Proxima Centauri neighborhood may be more crowded, with more planets orbiting it.
This exciting discovery is based on a seemingly unexciting detail: the cold dust belts surrounding the star. Researchers believe that this might hint at larger and more interesting objects orbiting the system.
“The dust around Proxima is important because, following the discovery of the terrestrial planet Proxima B, it’s the first indication of the presence of an elaborate planetary system, and not just a single planet, around the star closest to our Sun,” said Guillem Anglada, the lead author of the study.
He is part of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC) in Granada, Spain.
Dust clouds generally form because of the interaction between various spacial objects. The fact that scientists have detected two so far—one near the star, which could relate to Proxima B, but another further ten times further away from the star—seems to indicate that there is more going on in this region than we can currently detect.
Anglada continued by explaining that Proxima Centauri may have “a multiple planet system”. One with a “rich history of interactions” which led to the appearance of the recently detected dust belt.
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