Another day, another exoplanet. But this time it is very close to us. An analysis of the spectrum emitted by Proxima Centauri suggests that there may be a super-Earth orbiting the star.
Scientists at the National Institute of Astrophysics in the United States believe they have tracked a “super-Earth” next to the closest star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri. An analysis of the cyclical changes in the spectrum of light emitted by the star, located 4.22 light-years from Earth, allowed researchers to speculate on the existence of the exoplanet.
Research leader Mario Damasso and his colleagues believe that the exoplanet orbits Proxima Centauri every 5.2 years and may be a “super-Earth” – that is, it is more massive than our planet, but much smaller than the ice giants of the Solar System, Uranus and Neptune.
If the experts’ analysis is confirmed, this planet could help astronomers understand how low-mass planets are formed around low-mass stars.
In addition, the existence of this exoplanet contradicts the current models that explain the formation of super-Earths. Most of them are believed to form at a minimum distance from the star, at which water can turn to ice. However, the orbit of this exoplanet is located far beyond that ideal point.
A fact that corroborates the theory of the astronomers is that, in a previous study on Proxima Centauri, scientists detected an unknown source of signals in the light spectrum of the star that could belong to a second planet.
However, the researchers consider that these variations may be the result of a nearby galaxy or an event unrelated to Proxima Centauri, and therefore further studies are needed.