Nearby exoplanet could host life
Astronomers searching for a habitable planet believe Proxima Centauri b’s likelihood of water makes it a prime candidate
Computer models used in the study of Earth-based climate change have shown that the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b may be capable of sustaining life. Research detailed in the journal Astrobiology shows the possibility of Earth’s “nextdoor neighbour” being a potential habitable home. Indeed, in running 18 simulations the scientists found Proxima Centauri b had – in most cases – a form of salt or freshwater liquid ocean on its surface.
Even though the exoplanet is thought to be so close to its star that it is tidally locked – the effect of which is to have one side facing the star at all times – the simulations showed that a dynamic, circulating ocean could transfer heat from one side of the exoplanet to the other, leaving a band of liquid water around the equatorial region.
This differs from a previous paper, published in 2016, which said the side facing the star would be scorched while the other side would be frozen. "The major message from our simulations is that there’s a decent chance that the planet would be habitable," says planetary scientist Anthony Del Genio, from New York City’s NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The researchers say there is a good chance that Proxima Centauri b couldbe habitable