ESO

New Study Shows That Proxima B Could Potentially Support Life

Artist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri

Proxima B is an exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri. New research suggests that life on the exoplanet may be possible.

Research coming from the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science (BMSIS) in Seattle, shows promising simulations in which Proxima B could be habitable to life as we know it. The research is being led by astrobiologist Dimitra Atri. This is an interesting find as earlier this year it was reported that a global ocean could be present on the planet’s surface.

Proxima B orbits a red dwarf star which poses challenges for life, or so we think. Most importantly, they are cooler and dimmer than a star like our Sun – which can have obvious implications and challenges for life on it’s surface. Their planets are also prone to being tidally locked to the star (only one side persistently in light) and are more prone to solar flares.

However the new research sheds a more promising light on stars orbiting red dwarves. Telling Universe Today, Dr. Atri describes the research:

“I used Monte Carlo simulations to study the radiation dose on the surface of the planet for different types of atmospheres and magnetic field configurations. The results are optimistic. If the planet has both a good magnetic field and a sizable atmosphere, the effects of stellar flares are insignificant even if the star is in an active phase.”

Comparing the orbits of Proxima Centauri. Credit: ESO

In lamens terms, this means the planet would have a magnetic field which would allow for shielding from the star harmful flares.

Exoplanets surrounding red dwarves are theorized to be great candidates in the search for life outside of our solar system. Due to an incredibly long lifecycle for red dwarves lasting up to 10 trillion years, some researchers believe this presents a large enough window for life to evolve over time.

This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image between the planet and Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.
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Jamie is an amateur astronomer and every day space geek.