Alpha Centauri is classified as the star closest to our own sun in the galaxy. It is a trinary system, with three stars orbiting each other. The red dwarf, Proxima Centauri, is the closer of the stars to Earth. This is tied gravitationally to the brighter two at the center of the system. In August 2016, an exoplanet was discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri, and the newest information on this “Proxima B” has the scientific world very excited.
Can the Planet Actually Support Life?
That potential, as well as its proximity to Earth, has put this exoplanet at the top of the list of targets for the first interstellar probes. Currently, several are being imagined by multiple space exploration groups, including NASA, the Planetary Society, and the European Space Agency.
As expected, science is not yet settled. Some believe that solar flares from the red dwarf would have eaten away at its atmosphere, stripping it down to bare rock.
Others would disagree. France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) posted a study not long after the planet was discovered that claimed it could easily be a “water world”, much like Earth.
Several studies by multiple sources have been conducted since, examining a range of potential atmospheric conditions. Each one has found a significant chance that we may find liquid water on the surface of our new neighbor.