Until now, we have known about only one planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. However, the nearest alien planet to Earth may have siblings.
Scientists find dust cloud around Proxima Centauri and believe there may be more planets orbiting the star.
So, astronomers are now searching whether Proxima Centauri may host an entire system of planets.
“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,” study lead author Guillem Anglada, an astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia in Spain, said in a statement. “Further study may also provide information that might point to the locations of as-yet unidentified additional planets.”
The find suggests that asteroids and potentially planets could orbit inside the cloud.
About Proxima Centauri
Proxima Centauri, also known as Alpha Centauri C, is a red dwarf. It lies about 4.2 light-years from Earth, in the southern constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). In 2016, astronomers discovered Proxima b. It is roughly the size of Earth, which seems to orbit within the habitable zone of its star.
The closest star to our solar system is about the same age as the sun.
Researchers studied Proxima Centauri using the Atacama Large millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a network of telescopes in Chile.
This belt lies far beyond the orbit of Proxima b. It lies a few hundred million kilometers from the star. The temperature there is roughly 328° Fahrenheit (-230° Celsius). Researchers said it is almost the same temperature as the one in the solar system’s Kuiper Belt.
However, ALMA also found signs of a possible second dust ring. This might be about 10 times farther from the star than the other one. But astronomers still need to confirm it.
The Queen Mary, University of London academic said: “We hope these findings inspire future generations to keep looking beyond the stars. The search for life on Proxima b comes next.”
Thumbnail Image: An artist’s impression, not to scale, shows how the newly discovered belts of dust around the closest star to the Solar System, Proxima Centauri, may look. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser