Alpha Centauri is a truly unique star system. It contains three stars and several planets. While astronomers were pretty sure about the number of stars, there’s a new update regarding the number of planets that exist in Alpha Centauri.
The Proxima Centauri star is the closest one to the Sun (roughly 4.2 light-years away). It was now found to be hosting another exoplanet dubbed Proxima d, according to ScienceAlert.com.
Among the smallest exoplanets ever found
Proxima d is among the smallest exoplanets that were discovered by scientists. It’s only about a quarter as massive as Earth. Overall, there are 4,905 confirmed exoplanets that were discovered in the vastness of the Universe by astronomers as of January 2022.
Scientists had been using the ESPRESSO instrument from the Very Large Telescope of the ESO back in 2020 to detect some hints of the existence of another exoplanet surrounding Proxima Centauri.
Pedro Figueira from ESO in Chile and also an ESPRESSO scientist explained:
This achievement is extremely important,
It shows that the radial velocity technique has the potential to unveil a population of light planets, like our own, that are expected to be the most abundant in our galaxy and that can potentially host life as we know it.
João Faria from the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço, Portugal, declared:
After obtaining new observations, we were able to confirm this signal as a new planet candidate,
I was excited by the challenge of detecting such a small signal and, by doing so, discovering an exoplanet so close to Earth.
Scientists estimate a total of around one trillion exoplanets existing in the Milky Way alone. As for the rest of the Universe, it’s truly mind-boggling to try to imagine how many other exoplanets could be out there!