Scientists have discovered an exoplanet quite close to us that could have the potential to host life. An exoplanet is a planet outside our solar system that orbits some star other than the Sun. The planet has been given the name “Proxima b”, and it orbits the star “Proxima Centauri”. What’s special about Proxima Centauri is that it is the closest star to Earth (of course, besides our Sun). Proxima b is a little bigger than Earth, takes 11 days to complete an orbit around its star, and is thought to be in its star’s “Goldilocks Zone”.
Umm, what does that mean? Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Goldilocks doesn’t like the soup that is too hot or too cold; she likes the one that has just the right temperature. She doesn’t like the bowl that is too big or too small; she likes the one that is just the right size. If a planet is in the “Goldilocks Zone”, it implies that it has just the right size, temperature, and distance from its star to be in the “habitable zone” or, in other words, to support life on it. Most scientists believe water is needed to have life on a planet, and therefore, they look for planets which could contain water.
So how close is Proxima Centauri to us? It is just over 4 light-years away. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year (about 6 trillion miles or 10 trillion km).
Here is a video about Proxima Centauri.
Image Credits: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO/ESA/NASA/M. Zamani for the location of Proxima Centauri image, https://www.eso.org for Proxima b’s image
Sources: http://www.nasa.gov, https://www.eso.org