Multiple planets may orbit Proxima Centauri, study reports

Researchers have found evidence that multiple planets orbit the star Proxima Centauri.
By Jason Spencer | Nov 11, 2017
The red dwarf star Proxima Centauri has a dusty ring around it, which suggests -- despite popular belief -- its system could be home to multiple planets.

The distant star sits 4.2 light-years from Earth within the southern constellation of The Centaur. Previously, astronomers from the European Southern Observatory reported that the star hosts just one single exoplanet, known as Proxima B.

However, this new discovery shows that may not be true.

In the research, scientists working at the the Atacama Large millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile found a belt near the red dwarf, which suggests there may be more celestial bodies in the system.

"This result suggests that Proxima Centauri may have a multiple planet system with a rich history of interactions that resulted in the formation of a dust belt," saidlead author Guillem Anglada, an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, in a statement.

Dust belts typically suggest the presence of planets because astronomers believe they are the residue of materials that fail for form new worlds. As a result, the new finding is important because it is the first time researchers have found evidence that there is an elaborate planetary system surrounding the nearest star to our sun.

During their research, the team also found that the dusty belt has a mass equal to about 1 percent of the Earth, and its temperature is almost the same as the Kuiper Belt's.

Such information will help astronomers learn more about the distant formation. They hope further study of the belt will also allow them to gain more insight into Proxima B, which in turn could help learn more about other Earth-like exoplanets hiding out among the stars.

"These first results show that ALMA can detect dust structures orbiting around Proxima," study co-author Pedro Amado, an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, according to Tech Times. "Further observations will give us a more detailed picture of Proxima's planetary system."

The new findings have been accepted for publication in theAstrophysical Journal Letters.

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