Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Closest Exoplanet Ever Discovered

If you haven't already, please share this with your kids!  Discovering new exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) isn't a rare thing anymore.  Astronomers have currently confirmed, as of August 2016, 3,500 exoplanets.  Wow!  There are literally thousands of known, confirmed planets orbiting other stars with billions more to be found.  Last week, however, astronomers discovered the closest exoplanet ever.

Closest Exoplanet Discovered

This newly discovered exoplanet, named Proxima b, orbits the closest start to us, Proxima Centauri, at a distance of 4.2 light years.  What's even more exciting is this planet is in the star's habitable zone, meaning that temperatures are just right for the possibility of liquid water.  It doesn't mean liquid water exists, but that the temperature is in a range that makes liquid water possible.  On top of that, Proxima b is estimated to be slightly largely than the Earth and quite likely a rocky, terrestrial planet.  Super cool!

Before getting too carried away about the possibility of life, it's important to note we know basically nothing about this planet's atmosphere.  It could be an atmosphere like Venus' that makes it unlivable for life of any kind.  There are still many factors to consider before jumping to conclusions on life, but the fact we discovered a rocky planet in the habitable zone of the closest star is super cool!  When I was a kid there were no known exoplanets.  Now there are over 3,500, and the number grows every month!  Awesome!

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