The discovery of a habitable planet near Proxima Centauri is cause for wild speculation in the scientific community. The Earth-like planet orbits around our closest star called Proxima Centauri.
Scientists wonder whether the Jupiter-sized planet has life, or to what degree it resembles Earth. These are burning questions, on everybody’s mind.
Seth Shostak, from the SETI institute, aiming to search for life in space, says that finding the answer to the question of who inhabits the newly discovered planet is not easy. The planet orbiting the Proxima Centauri star is called Proxima B.
Although it has not been seen yet, the planet’s inclination and orbit have been measured. It showed that it is, in fact, a planet, with a mass comparable to Jupiter but scientists can only speculate about the conditions on the planet.
Because our current telescopes are not advanced enough, there is little chance that scientists will discover relevant information, such as what kind of atmosphere the planet has, or if it has biological processes.
Scientists will make the effort, but it won’t be easy, with current equipment, which just shows pixelated dots. Planetary scientist, Athena Coustenis, director of research for the National Center for Scientific Research from France believes that Proxima Centauri is a star different from the Sun. It is smaller, dimmer, and it could influence the way life develops on Proxima B.
For now, we can’t go there and check. A mission to Proxima B is impossible with current technology. Even though it is only four light-years away, this would mean that a mission to Proxima B would have to go through 25 trillion miles, in less than a lifetime.
Scientists estimate that such interstellar voyages will be possible within one hundred years.
But if astronomers could find alien life on Proxima b, this would have huge implications for humanity and Earth.
Finding life on other planets or anywhere in the Universe would have a tremendous importance, according to Ian Crawford, professor of Earth and Planetary science at Birkbeck College in London, UK.
Some scientists compare the impact of finding life on other planets to the reaction of Europe in 1492, upon discovering the New World. They assume there would be a lot of new information to take in.
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