Recently, astronomers using the European Southern Observatory telescope in northern Chile, detected a planet orbiting the star nearest to our solar system, Proxima Centauri. The way they detected the planet, by the tiny wobble it causes the star along our direction of view, is very interesting, though not the topic I’m following up here. The star and its planet are 4.25 light-years away, so, still an extreme distance for any probe to reach that can hit even the highest speeds our spacecraft attain. Nonetheless, astronomers and their biology/physics colleagues are wondering if this planet can sustain life.
The star is cool but the planet orbits close to it, so that the planet might attain an average temperature near the range in which water is liquid. Of course, there are many other requirements for being amenable to life, even if only microbial life. Here is a very detailed write-up, running to 16 pages.
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