Astronomy – Proxima Centauri

Proxima Centauri lies at the far-off outskirts of our galaxy. It is only about half a light-year away and is thought to be the most distant “exuberant planet” or star in our solar system. Because of this, it is one of the best-studied stars in the whole solar system. Astronomy buffs have spent years studying Proxima Centauri to learn more about our solar system and to discover if it has any habitable planets. One of the great revelations is that Proxima Centauri has a very temperate ocean of water around its bitter red star.

 

Proxima Centauri b is the star’s designation and it means “the red one.” Proxima means “water” in Latin. Therefore, Proxima means “water planet.” It is also the closest star to our own Sun, which lies 4.246 light-minutes from the Sun and it is therefore also known as “the Star”. Its Latin name is “Pua Proximae.”

 

This object was first discovered by Robert Innes at the observatories at La Sirena near Giandolas in France in January, 1915. Later that year, German astronomer Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered it in the same field using an instrument called a spectroscopic camera. He described it as a small, faint, irregularly shaped star. Later astronomers realized that it was really much larger than originally thought and is a relatively cool red star with extremely high chromatic quality.

 

The star has an unusual stability and is very nearly plane. Its spin is tilted downwards and its orbit is similar to that of Betelgeuse (also known as HD 8052), another faint star very close to our own star. Proxima is unique in that it is a “binary pulsating” star, which means it spins off and on again without a companion to keep it spinning consistently. The only other such star in the Milky Way is Gliese (also known as IC 769-8), which is also a binary pulsating pulsing system. It is the closest star to our own sun that does not possess a companion. About two and a half times the mass of the Sun and three and a half times the mass of the Earth, Proxima is about ten thousand times more massive than our Sun.

 

Astronomers use telescopes to detect the wobble in its axis as it spins. If they detect a dimple or a discrepancy in the alignment of the spin axis, it is interpreted as evidence that there is some movement on the surface of the planet. If there is motion, the star is moving through a dusty disk of debris in space and has not been isolated to a special star cluster, which would be required for the existence of a giant planet like Jupiter or Saturn. The wobble could also mean that the planet itself is spinning and that it is very large and very hot.

 

There are several telescopes operating today that are designed specifically to take a detailed photograph of Proxima Centauri, including a European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescope. A number of amateur astronomers also have telescopes designed to take this type of photograph, using them to study the stars at leisure and to document any dips in the star’s brightness that they notice. If there is a planet orbiting Proxima in our solar system, then it may also be in the foreground. The existence of such an object would be indicated by the dips in the star’s brightness that it shows in relation to the background of the background star. Such dips would also indicate a planet-formation system and therefore, could be a first step toward finding another habitable planet in our solar s

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