Proxima Centauri b: A Potential Extra-Solar Home?

As an astronomy student and lover of science fiction, Proxima Centauri b is a planet that continues to excite me!  (If you missed it, don’t forget to read about the Red Planet in last weeks blog)

PCb (as I will call it for ease of use for the rest of this post) is the nearest, potentially habitable extra-solar planet in our galaxy.

There are many things that make PCb an interesting place, a few of which are:

Temperature- The estimated surface temp of PCb is around 234 Kelvin (or −39 °C; −38 °F, roughly), and while dangerously cold (again, potentially) isn’t uninhabitable by us mammals. Our current technology allows for habitation in the coldest parts of our little blue planet (Ellesmere Island in extreme northern Canada hits 234 Kelvin on a fairly regular basis in the winter, cold, but not impossible).

Perpetual Twilight: Because PCb’s red dwarf star, Proxima Centauri, is much less bright than our own, the planet never reaches the same levels of what we call “daylight.” While this would have a dramatic effect on solar power (rendering it all but useless currently) as well as the idea of growing plants, it could also mean that if the planet hosts a hospitable atmosphere and or magnetic field to shield it from radiation. The effects of solar radiation on life there could be dramatically less than that of earth.

Proximity: The distance from earth to PCb is a mere 4.2 light years away. While this is still seen as very far away given our current technology, advances in space propulsion technology make this trip a theoretical century long vs the much longer commute thought to be necessary in decades’ past. The research involving EM drive technology is incredibly exciting, especially when combination with recent earth exit propulsion strides that make regular and cost effective trips to the moon imminent in the next 10 years or so! With the right funding and opportunity to further space travel as it relates to deep space sojourns, we could establish a halfway point way station of sorts to make the trip to PCb even easier.

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