Nearby ex­o­planet could host life

Astronomers search­ing for a hab­it­able planet be­lieve Prox­ima Cen­tauri b’s like­li­hood of wa­ter makes it a prime can­di­date

All About Space - - Launch Pad -

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

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