Proxima Centauri is our closest stellar neighbor, a small red dwarf star, located approximately 4.2 light-years away from us. It is a part of the Alpha Centauri group, and even though it is so astronomically close, we can’t see its light with the naked eye.
In 2016, astronomers identified a planet that is orbiting Proxima Centauri, called Proxima Centauri b. Its existence was confirmed days ago.
The good news is that astronomers have confirmed the existence of a second planet, named Proxima Centauri C.
The New Member
The presence of the new planet was made public in a paper back in April. The paper is named “A Preliminary Mass for Proxima Centauri C.”
The findings were also presented at the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
The majority of exoplanets are located with a method known as “the transit method.”
The transit method consists of sensitive instruments detecting the drop in starlight provoked by a planet moving in front of its star, thus blocking light from passing. However, that method only works when the celestial bodies are in line with the observing position.
To identify Proxima Centauri, scientists had to use the radial velocity method.
Though stars are more massive than the planets that orbit them, the planets still exert gravitational fields on them, tugging them along in the process. The radial velocity method analyzes how the star responds to the tug, which gives astronomers valuable information about the two.
That amazing but extremely complicated method is why we can safely say that our new neighbor, Proxima Centauri c, is a real thing.
The process was also aided by data from the Hubble’s Fine Guidance Sensor 3 registered in 1999.
It’s amazing to see how science can put together old pieces of a puzzle to solve a big mystery of the present!