On Friday, August 26, Slooh will explore Proxima-b, a brand new world discovered by the European Southern Observatory. The broadcast will feature live views of the exoplanet’s parent star, Proxima Centauri, the closest star system to Earth, through Slooh’s Chile telescopes, along with expert commentary from exoplanet researchers, and members of the ESO team responsible for the momentous discovery.
During the broadcast host, Eric Edelman will be joined by Michael Endl from the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin, who worked on the ESO team that made the discovery. They’ll discuss how the team managed to find an Earth-like planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri. They’ll also explore what the team has learned so far about this mysterious “nearby” planet, and what they hope to learn in the future.
Eric will also be joined by Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger, Director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, to discuss the implications of the discovery. They’ll explore the chances of life on the planet, and what this discovery means for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
According to the ESO, Proxima-b is a planet roughly the same mass as Earth, orbiting in the habitable zone of its host star, Proxima Centauri. The planet is in a prime position to support liquid water, an important component to supporting life as we know it. But the planet’s proximity to its star makes the chances for life on the surface questionable. Because Proxima Centauri is a cool Red Dwarf star, the planet is five times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, causing it to experience high levels of X-Ray and UV radiation. These topics and others will be covered in Friday’s live broadcast.
Proxima has long been of fascination to astronomers, especially those looking to the future of human exploration of the Universe. Sitting just over four light-years from Earth’s own Solar System, Proxima Centauri offers the best chance humanity has to travel to another star system without the invention of faster-than-light travel. The discovery of Proxima-b offers a brand new motivation for future study and exploration of this system.
“Proxima Centauri was one of the first objects Slooh members pointed the new telescopes to when we launched our southern hemisphere in Chile back in 2007. We received an early alert from the Pale Red Dot campaign a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve been imaging the star every clear night since,” said Slooh Astronomer, Paul Cox. “It’s amazing to watch that small red dot live in the online telescopes every night – and imagine the Earth-like world that we now know orbits the star. With the possibility that liquid water exists on ‘Proxima b’, who knows, there may be some Centaurian amateur astronomers gazing back at us every night!”