Proxima Centauri b – Flyover
roxima Centauri has been in the media a lot lately. This tiny red dwarf - only 1/7 the diameter of
the Sun - is the closest star outside the Solar System, at 4.25 light-years.
What's so special about it? Well, it's got a planet in orbit around it dubbed,
unceremoniously, Proxima b. The media has been calling this an 'Earth-like' planet but that's a
misnomer. What they mean is terrestrial - it's made of rock and metal, like the Earth, not a fluid
like say Jupiter. But it could easily be as airless as Mercury or as sterile and stifling as Venus.
Personally, I think it's likely to have some sort of atmosphere. It's heavier and bigger than the
Earth, so it has the gravity to retain heavy gases, unlike Mercury and Mars. It also orbits in its
star's habitable zone - theoretically, a region surrounding a star within which liquid water can
exist on an the surface of orbiting body.
Here’s my take on it. I've
included an atmosphere but no water. To the left of Proxima is Alpha Centauri, a binary consisting
of two Sun-like stars.
Proxima is a flare star - it's highly magnetic and
spews out streams of charged particles. If the world has its own magnetic field (like Earth) and an
atmosphere, this would be a fantastic place to go aurora spotting!
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