Our nearest exoplanet, Proxima b, could have a large and chilly neighbor

potential exoplanet proxima c artist s impression of the planet orbiting centauri
This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. ESO/M. Kornmesser

Our nearest exoplanet discovered so far is Proxima b, which orbits the star Proxima Centauri located 4.2 light-years from Earth. Orbiting a red dwarf, Proxima b sits in the habitable zone, meaning it could host liquid water on its surface, and is roughly the same size as Earth, making it an intriguing target for dreams of planetary colonization. It was previously believed that Proxima b was the only world hosted by Proxima Centauri.

But now new evidence suggests that Proxima b might have a neighbor, Proxima c. Announced at the Breakthrough Initiatives conference this week, a team of scientists led by Mario Damasso from the University of Turin, Italy, and Fabio Del Sordo from the University of Crete, Greece, observed Proxima Centauri using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument. HARPS is located in the La Silla Observatory in Chile and was used to investigate the gravitational effects of orbiting planets.

The scientists observed a “wobble” of Proxima Centauri which suggests there could be a second planet in orbit around it. This wobble had been previously observed but was only of borderline significance, but in the last few years a larger dataset has been collected. Analyzing this larger dataset pushed the findings into the territory of significance.

However, Damasso and Sordo were keen to emphasize that this is only a preliminary finding. “It is only a candidate,” Damasso said during the presentation, according to Scientific American. “This is very important to underline.”

Proxima c, if it does exist, is estimated to be a super-Earth with a mass about six times that of our planet. It would orbit its star every 1900 days at 1.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun, meaning it is a cold and inhospitable place. This is because, as a red dwarf, Proxima Centauri is smaller and dimmer than our Sun. So its rays would barely reach Proxima c enough to heat it, making the surface temperature low.

So don’t plan a colonization trip just yet. But there could be another exoplanet nearby that we could one day visit.

Emerging Tech

Hubble captures a beautiful cosmic jellyfish made of glowing gas

A new image from Hubble might look like a deep-space jellyfish, but it's not a sign of extraterrestrial life - in fact, it's a planetary nebula called NGC 2022, located in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).
Movies & TV

The best shows on Hulu right now (August 2019)

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix right now (August 2019)

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

LG may show off one of these new foldable phone designs at IFA 2019

LG is set to unveil a new dual-screen/foldable smartphone at IFA 2019, and speculation is rampant. Some patents may show what we could potentially see from LG soon, and they range from familiar to bizarre.
Emerging Tech

Artificial tree promises to suck up as much air pollution as a small forest

Startup Biomitech has developed an artificial tree that it claims is capable of sucking up as much air pollution as 368 real trees. It could be a game-changer for cities with limited free space.
Emerging Tech

Mars 2020 rover now has a rotating array of drill bits for sampling Martian rock

Most the key components in the Mars 2020 rover are installed and ready to go. The next phase of construction was to install the bit carousel, an important mechanism for the gathering and sorting of samples from the Martian surface.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

NASA selects landing site candidates for OSIRIS-Rex to sample asteroid Bennu

Last year, the OSIRIS-REx craft arrived at asteroid Bennu, from which it will collect a sample from the asteroid to be brought back to Earth. Now, the NASA team has selected four potential sites to choose from for the sampling mission.
Emerging Tech

NASA wants to send two more missions to Mars to collect rock samples

With its Mars 2020 mission, NASA hopes to collect samples from the surface of the planet. The challenge is how to get those samples back to Earth. Now, NASA has revealed its plans for two followup missions to Mars.
Emerging Tech

Eric Geusz: Apple engineer by day, spaceship designer by night

An Apple software engineer by day, artist Eric Geusz spends his nights drawing everyday household objects as amazing, science fiction-style spaceships. Check out the impressive results.
Emerging Tech

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is flaring and no one knows why

At the heart of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. Normally this giant monster is relatively docile, but recently it's been a hotbed of unexpected activity, rapidly glowing 75 times brighter than normal.
Emerging Tech

SpaceIL’s crashed lander may have sent thousands of tardigrades to the moon

When the SpaceIL craft Beresheet crashed into the moon earlier this year, it left more than just an impact mark. Thousands of micro-animals called tardigrades were along for the ride and may have survived the crash.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s satellite projects will study the sun using solar sailing

Small satellites can be used for all sorts of purposes, and NASA has been searching for ideas to push ahead the capabilities of the hardware. The agency has announced two new projects to demonstrate the potential of small satellites.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe makes a second orbit of the sun, captures solar wind on video

The Parker Solar Probe, launched last year, has completed its second orbit around the sun. To celebrate, the team responsible for the probe has released a video showing solar winds in action.