The star that is the closest to the Sun may, in fact, have another planet rotating around in its system, which may be a ‘super-Earth’ planet, astronomers claim.
The Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth, at about 4.2 light-years away. The star has a planet that has been discovered by the astronomers, known as Proxima b. Now, researchers from Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics suggest that changes in the star’s behavior could indicate a second planet rotating around it.
The paper was published in the Science Advances journal.
A Super-Earth Planet
A planet considered a super-Earth has a larger size than Earth, but it is a bit smaller than Neptune.
Astronomer and lead author of the paper, Mario Damasso, told Business Insider: “Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to the sun, and this detection would make it the closest planetary system to us.”
Proxima c, as the new planet has been named, is probably inhabitable, considering its location to the star. If it actually exists, it is most likely covered in ice or filled with hydrogen and helium.
The Reason Behind Proxima c’s Unconfirmed Existence
Usually, super-Earth planets take shape around the ‘snowline,’ which is the length to a star where water transforms into ice. Proxima c, though, is not located on that snowline. If it does exist, it could make researchers reconsider their theory. Even so, it may also mean that it doesn’t exist.
The reason behind this new theory is the fact that astronomers have discovered that the color of the light of the star changed. This is because its star will have switched positions, which is typically a sign that there is a planet pulling on the star as it rotates.
Damasso has also stated that the team ‘cannot discard the possibility that the signal is actually due to the activity of the star.”‘
More analysis will be performed with the use of ESA‘s Gaia space telescope.