Meet Proxima Centauri, Home to Our Newest Exoplanet

By Jennifer Ouellette on at

It’s been an exciting week for planet hunters with the discovery of the nearest exoplanet yet found, orbiting a star called Proxima Centauri. Now you can get a closer look at that star system, courtesy of the robotic telescope service Slooh.

Proxima Centauri is a small red dwarf star located just 4.25 light years away, slightly closer to Earth than the famous binary pair of Alpha Centauri A and B. The newly discovered exoplanet has been dubbed Proxima b, and the ESO team pegs its mass as being roughly 1.3 times that of Earth.

According to Slooh team member Paul Cox, when collaboration launched its new telescopes in Chile back in 2007, Proxima Centauri was one of their first observational targets of its global network. Since getting a heads-up on the new exoplanet, the telescopes have been imaging the star every night.

“It’s amazing to watch that small red dot live in the online telescopes every night, and imagine the earth-like world that we now know orbits the star,” Cox said in a statement. “With the possibility that liquid water exists on Proxima b, who knows, there may be some Centaurian amateur astronomers gazing back at us every night.”

Broadcast host Eric Edelman was joined by the University of Texas, Austin’s Michael Endl—part of the ESO team that discovered Proxima b—and Lisa Kaltnegger, director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, who will address the implications of this discovery for extraterrestrial life.