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Space & Astronomy

Possible new planet found at Alpha Centauri A

February 10, 2021 | Comment icon 1 comment

If this really is a planet, could it support life ? Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)
Astronomers have discovered what could be an indication of a previously undiscovered extrasolar world.
Astronomers have detected thousands of new planets over the last few years, but while many of them have the potential to be habitable, most are too far away for us to ever actually visit.

That's why the discovery of an Earth-like world in orbit around Proxima Centauri - a red dwarf star situated just 4.25 light-years away - was deemed so significant when it was revealed back in 2016.

Now astronomers believe that they may have found an indication of another plant in orbit around Alpha Centauri A - one of the Alpha Centauri AB binary pair - making our closest neighboring star system an even more tantalising possibility in the search for life outside our own solar system.

It has been stressed however that the find - which amounts to a 'planet candidate' - is still tentative, meaning that it has yet to be confirmed that this is definitely a new planet.
"We detected something," said Pete Klupar, chief engineer of the Breakthrough Initiatives.

"It could be an artefact in the machine or it could be a planet, or it could be asteroids or dust."

It was picked up by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile's Atacama Desert with the help of a new coronagraph on the instrument that blocks the light from the stars themselves, thus making orbiting planets easier to see.

"A lot of people say planets can't form in this kind of binary and that's one reason we are cautious about claiming it is actually a planet," said Klupar.

"But if it is, it would be about the size of Neptune."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (1)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by bison 12 months ago
I doubt that a planet would form around Alpha Centauri a, or remain in it long, if it did. Alpha Centauri a and b are quite close together. A planet trying to form around either star, would probably be  disrupted by the gravity of the other, or have its orbit affected to the point that it was thrown into its parent star, or out of the star system entirely.  Then, too, the image in the article appears to be of an elongated object, not one like a planet, which would have enough gravity to pull itself into a sphere.  The deion of the supposed planet suggests that it could be similar in size to Ne... [More]

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