Published 2018-10-02
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It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth

Scientists have confirmed the existence of a second Earth located in the solar system Proxima Centauri b. It is believed that the planet presents oceans in the same way as our home and is likely to harbor alien life. In the past, thousands of exoplanets were detected throughout the universe, but none of them is like this one. According to the researchers, this star presents "very promising qualities." Here we tell you all the details about this news.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 1

The newfound world is rocky, slightly bigger than the Earth and it is located in the suitable distance so that the water that lodges remains in the liquid state. The Proxima Centauri star is one of the closest to our home, and it is possible that the water of one of its stars generates extraterrestrial life. Proxima Centauri b is exactly 1.3 times the size of our planet and is located 4 light years away from us. However, although this distance sounds not very large, it is insurmountable.

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The distance that separates us is about 40 trillion kilometers. If humans want to travel there, they will have to use a maximum speed technology or a ship that allows several generations to live in it... If it is proven that this star is indeed the "second Earth", it could be one of the best options for a future human colonization. And in the not too distant future, it is possible that humanity cannot continue to live in their home, with which second options are already valued…

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The researchers believe that the temperature of its surface could be between -90ºC and 30ºC. The distance between Earth and Proxima Centauri b can be seen as incomprehensible, but it is much smaller than that which separates us from other candidate planets to be habitable. Therefore, this star would be the most suitable for the first inter-spatial journey of humanity. Proxima Centauri is a star known by the name of red dwarf that lodges in the constellation of Centaurus.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 4

The star itself is too weak to be seen by the naked eye, but in recent months, scientists around the world have not lost sight of it. Guillem Anglada-Escudé is the leading astrophysicist of the investigation of this planet, who commented: "The history of many people and their efforts have led to this discovery. The search for life in Proxima b is the next step we must take," expressed this expert in the world no one expected to find our neighbors.

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If we finally find a trace of intelligent life, it would mean that other life forms inhabit the star closest to the Sun... One of the main characteristics that distinguish this planet from the Earth is that the light it receives from its star is close to being infrared. These light frequencies interact much more powerfully with water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which affects the climate of our planet model. Given this problem, there are many opinions of different astronomers.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 6

"In fact, we have found that moving in eccentric orbit, it is quite possible that its surface is habitable," said researcher James Manners, who was also involved in the project. "However, this may take a while. Simply seeing the stars that make up our solar system we know that they are incredibly diverse and complicated. We have a lot to learn! "Almost no one in the scientific community risks assuring the fact that there are aliens in Next b, but some of them are more optimistic than others.

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A report from the American space agency (NASA) last year explained carefully the reasons we have both to think that this star is our next home to stop looking at it. The document focused on the difference of our atmosphere with that of this celestial body since it is possible that its protection against stellar radiation is much smaller than that of the Earth. In this way, the chances of habitability would be drastically reduced.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 8

At only 4 light years, Proxima b is the star outside the solar system closest to us. However, due to the fact that it has not been seen crossing in front of the star, the exoplanet eludes the usual method that scientists have to learn more about its atmosphere. Instead, researchers have to rely on models to understand if this star is habitable or not. A NASA study used a computer to find out what would happen if the Earth orbited in the Next Centauri solar system, with the same orbit as that of Proxima b.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 9

The analysis suggested that the Earth's atmosphere would not survive at a close distance from the violent red dwarf. "We have decided to take the only habitable planet we know, the Earth, and put it where Proxima b is," explained Katherine Garcia-Sage, a NASA space scientist who co-authored the study. Just because the orbit of this celestial body is in the habitable zone of that system, it does not mean we can live there. Liquid water is not the only factor that is needed.

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It has not been taken into account at the moment, if there really is water, or if the atmosphere and the gases that form it can survive its orbit. As we know, these layers that surround the planets are essential for life as we know it. Thanks to the atmosphere the climate is regulated, a pressure is maintained so that the water remains on the surface and provides an authentic shield against the dangerous climate of the space. In addition, they can also generate and house chemical blocks that cause life.

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Garcia-Sage and his colleagues used a computational model with the Earth's atmosphere, as well as its gravity and gravitational field to couple everything as features of Proxima b. They also calculated how much radiation the Proxima Centauri star produces on average, based on observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. With this information, its model simulated how the intense radiation of the star and its brightness would affect the exoplanet and its gas layer.

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"The question is, how much of the atmosphere is lost, and how long does this process take?" Said Ofer Cohen, a space scientist at the University of Massachusetts who also led the study. "If we estimate that time, we can calculate how much happens until the atmosphere deteriorates. Then we compare this in relation to the age of the planet." An active red dwarf like Proxima Centauri emits a high-energy ultraviolet radiation that ionizes this layer of gases, neutralizing electrons and producing a line of electrically charged particles.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 13

In this process, the new electrons gain enough energy that they can escape the gravity of the planet and leave the atmosphere again. Due to this, an attraction of the positively charged ions is created, which also goes into space. In the habitable zone of this neighboring system, Proxima b finds a radiation, hundreds of times more powerful than that which the Earth receives from the Sun. This energy eliminates not only small molecules such as hydrogen but also heavier elements such as oxygen and the nitrogen.

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The model showed that the star's radiation would deteriorate an Earth-like atmosphere about 10,000 times faster than the Sun. "It was a simple calculation based on the average activity of Proxima Centauri. It does not consider some variations as the extreme heating of the atmosphere of the star or the violent distortions in the magnetic field of the exoplanet. These details would aggravate the ionization and the escape of essential substances... " commented García-Sage.

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To understand how this process could vary, scientists observed two factors that would worsen atmospheric loss. At first, they considered the temperature of the neutral layer, called the thermosphere, and found that the more radiation heated it, the more substance escapes. They also considered the size of the polar cap, the main point where the flow of these molecules into outer space occurs. And is that the magnetic field is very important for these calculations. Everything has an impact on the final habitability…

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"This study tries to observe in an unappreciated aspect of habitability. Each planet has different interaction systems, and it is important to make sure that we include these features in our models," said García-Sage. The results reported that Proxima b could lose a number of substances equal to that of the whole of the Earth in 100 million years, only a fraction of the 4 billion years of Proxima b. According to this information, it would be impossible to live there.

It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 17

Even so, there is still much to interpret and assess when it comes to reaching a definitive conclusion with the habitable characteristics or not of this star. And there are some other factors that could counteract the atmospheric loss of this exoplanet. Among them would be a massive seismic and volcanic activity or a bombing of comets. If the orbit were closed in such a way that it was closer to its star than it is thought, it would not be possible to live there…

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Professor John Barnes, who has also devoted himself in recent years to studying Proximo b, commented on the current possibilities and the hope that this celestial body still offers us. "We know that in that solar system, there had to be a planet orbiting in an area where liquid water was possible, which is amazing. If the following investigations conclude that the conditions of its atmosphere can engender life, it would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever made... "

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Life could reach this exoplanet much later than the time when humanity perished, according to the researchers. "Next Centauri will exist for hundreds or thousands of times more than the Sun," explained Professor Artie Hatzes in a report. "Life could begin to evolve after our star died in any way."
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It's official: Researchers have discovered a second Earth 20
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