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Nearby habitable planets at Alpha Centauri


Could there be habitable planets or even life itself in the star system nearest to our sun. That’s the question scientists want to answer, and on November 17, 2021, they announced a new space telescope mission called TOLIMAN to find out if there are any nearby habitable planets in the closest star system, Alpha Centauri. TOLIMAN, which stands for Telescope for Orbit Locus Interferometric Monitoring of our Astronomical Neighborhood, is also an old Arabic name for Alpha Centauri. Scientists custom designed TOLIMAN to search for words around our stellar next door neighbors.
The nearest star system to our own
Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our sun, at just over 4 light years away. However, unlike our sun, it consists of not one but three stars. Two of them are similar to the sun and the other is a red dwarf. The two sun-like stars, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, are just 4.37 light-years away from us. The red dwarf that orbits them, Proxima Centauri, is only 4.25 light-years away.So far, there are no confirmed planets around the main two stars though one is suspected. But there is one known planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. This planet, Proxima Centauri b, has the classification of a super-Earth though it’s just a tad bigger than Earth. Its mass is 1.27 Earths and estimated diameter is 1.08 Earths. Discovered in 2016, it orbits within the habitable zone of the star, the region where temperatures are suitable for liquid water to exist. It takes 11.2 days to complete an orbit around the star.Little else is known about this world so far, but it certainly warrants further study. Being about the same size as Earth, and in the habitable zone, doesn’t on its own prove it is habitable, but it could be. And, if there is one planet, might there be others, as-yet undiscovered.

Nearby habitable planets around Alpha Centauri
TOLIMAN will search for other planets around Proxima Centauri and additional planets in the Alpha Centauri system. Ones in the habitable zone of any of the stars would, of course, be of key interest. Pete Worden, executive director of Breakthrough Initiatives, said in a statement.Notably, even after the discovery of thousands of exoplanets, we still know little about planets around the nearest stars in the solar neighborhood. Peter Tuthill, project leader for TOLIMAN, said, A space telescope for nearby habitable planets. Unlike TOLIMAN’s focus on our near neighborhood, other telescopes, such as Kepler and TESS, have focused on more distant stars. Searching for them around closer, brighter stars, however, requires additional fine-tuning of the instruments.

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