Wednesday, November 8, 2017

More Planets Could Be Hiding Around Newly Discovered Proxima Centauri Dust Band

Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
 Astronomers using the ALMA telescope in Chile have discovered a dust band that extends hundreds of millions of miles out from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun. This could mean that instead of just one planet revolving around the star, there could be a whole complex planetary system.
 Last year, astronomers discovered  that a planet roughly the size of Earth orbits around Proxima Centauri within the star's habitable zone - the area where temperatures are just right for water to pool on a planet's surface.
 However astronomers were curious as to whether there was more lurking around the nearby star. The team was wondering if they could detect bands of debris, similar to the bands in our Solar System, such as the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or the Kuiper Belt that orbits beyond Neptune - and this what was exactly what they found.

Image Credit: Digitized Sky Survey 2, Davide De Martin/Mahdi Zamani

 The best part of the discovery was that it may not be just one band around Proxima Centauri. “There seems to be not just one belt, but more than one,” said Enrique Macías, astronomer at the Boston University, in an interview with The Verge. “Maybe even three regions of dust." Data from the observations indicates that there may be two other bands farther out, but future observations will be needed to confirm that they exist.
 “Our observation seem to indicate there are going to be more planets, because we see a lot of complexity,” says Macías. “In the close future we’re going to detect other planets in the system for sure.”

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