The star Alpha Centauri may have an exoplanet within the habitable zone, according to research by the NEAR program, which seeks Potentially Earth-like worlds in not-too-distant stars. The signs of this exoplanet have been found thanks to the incorporation of new technologies in the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory, in Chile, informa Europa Press.
The NEAR program added to the VLT a thermal coronograph, an “instrument designed to block the light of a star and allow the heat signatures of orbiting planets to be detected” and thanks to it he was able to detect a light rated “C1” that could indicate the presence of a habitable exoplanet.
The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, was observing the Alpha Centauri system (about 4.37 light years away) for about 100 hours in 2019 and collected 5 million images. The data then required treatment: the false signals created by the instrumentation and residual light from the coronagraph were eliminated.
Caution before the discovery of exoplanets
Although the main conductor of the investigation, Kevin Wagner stated that what was discovered could not be explained by systemic error correctionsyes, warned that “We are not at the level of confidence to say that we discovered a planet around Alpha Centauri, but there is a sign that it could be that with some later verification. ”
The search for exoplanets in the habitable zones of other stars was hampered by technological limitations, but the coronagraph increases these possibilities up to ten times. “If we want to find planets with suitable conditions for life as we know it, we have to look for rocky planets about the size of Earth, within habitable zones around older sun-like stars” Wagner indicated.
I’m a science journalist and host of Cosmic Controversy (brucedorminey.podbean.com) as well as author of “Distant Wanderers: the Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System.” I primarily cover aerospace and astronomy. I’m a former Hong Kong bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine and former Paris-based technology correspondent for the Financial Times newspaper who has reported from six continents. A 1998 winner in the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Aerospace Journalist of the Year Awards (AJOYA), I’ve interviewed Nobel Prize winners and written about everything from potato blight to dark energy. Previously, I was a film and arts correspondent in New York and Europe, primarily for newspaper outlets like the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe and Canada’s Globe & Mail. Recently, I’ve contributed to Scientific American.com, Nature News, Physics World, and Yale Environment 360.com. I’m a current contributor to Astronomy and Sky & Telescope and a correspondent for Renewable Energy World. Twitter @bdorminey