Have you ever wondered if we were alone in our universe? In 2016, an Earth-size planet was discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri, a small red-dwarf star located just 4.2 light-years from the sun. This exoplanet named Proxima Centauri b may be able to harbor living organisms due to the enormous areas of liquid water on its surface. According to researchers the more liquid water found on the planet, the better the odds that there is life there. But could Proxima Centauri b really be the answer we have been looking for or is it another dead end?
Sticking In The Habitable Zone
Scientists don’t know much about this planet except that its mass is 1.3 times larger than the Earth and its orbit takes 11 days instead of 365. Planetary scientist Anthony Del Genio discovered that Proxima Centauri b orbits far enough away from its star to receive enough light to keep its surface above freezing.
Unlike the habitable zone of our solar system, it is a lot closer to the star, causing the planet to be tidally locked due to gravitational forces. This puts the planet in the same position as our moon, meaning that the same side of the planet faces its parent star.
Hot Vs. Cold Hemispheres
Although past computer simulations have shown two different temperatures for each hemisphere, scientists believe that there could be an “eyeball Earth” scenario. An “eyeball Earth” is the idea that there is a dynamic and circulating ocean on the planet’s surface.
The circulating ocean would explain how this planet is able to transfer heat from one side to the other effectively, keeping liquid water on both sides.
Future Studies, Future Life
It is uncertain what lies in store for this planet, but scientists believe that this could be the next step into understanding our own galaxy. After 18 separate simulation scenarios, it is clear that there is still a lot of research to be done. However, seeing evidence of liquid water on any planet gives us hope that we are not alone.
There is life out there somewhere; we just need to find it and the only way to do that is by exploring the universe around us.