A planet deemed “highly habitable” has been recently discovered by astronomers and is located only 4 light-years away from us.
A planet located within the habitable zone of a star only 4.2 light-years away from Earth may have a massive ocean, which increases the likelihood of supporting life. Despite uncertainties about the planet’s surface conditions, such as its mass being slightly greater than Earth’s and its red dwarf star similar to our sun in age, several studies in recent years have presented contrasting views on Proxima b’s habitability.
The latest study, however, has revived the prospect of supporting life on the exoplanet. According to the researchers, there is a fair chance that under specific conditions, Proxima b could sustain liquid water, indicating its potential habitability.
The researchers conducted the first climate simulations of Proxima b with a dynamic ocean in a study recently published in the journal Astrobiology. It is believed that the planet is tidally locked with its star, Proxima Centauri, resulting in a permanent “dayside” and “nightside.”
While any water on the side left in the dark would be frozen, that’s not necessarily the case for the other side.
According to the new study published in Astrobiology, previous climate models of Proxima b with static oceans suggested the possibility of a small dayside surface ocean despite its weak instellation. However, the researchers found that considering a dynamic ocean for the first time significantly increased the extent of liquid water on the planet, with some parts even dipping into the nightside. The simulations demonstrated that if Proxima b were ocean-covered with an atmosphere similar to modern Earth’s, it could sustain a habitable climate with a broad open ocean region, which extends to the nightside at low latitudes.
The team of researchers also considered the effects of different salinity levels and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations on the size of the liquid regions. They conducted over a dozen simulations and discovered that the exoplanet almost always had some form of liquid ocean.
However, the possibility of taking a dip is not exciting yet. The researchers pointed out that if Proxima b were to have a liquid ocean, it would be much broader than previously estimated, but at much colder temperatures due to ocean heat transport and salinity effects on the freezing point.
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