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NASA’s Unexplained Files: The exoplanet that might be the Earth next door

An artist's impression of what the surface of Proxima b might be like
An artist’s impression of what the surface of Proxima b might be like

Tonight NASA’s Unexplained Files looks at a planet fairly close to Earth that could be habitable.

Proxima b orbits red dwarf Proxima Centauri, which at 4.25 light-years is the nearest star to our own sun.

According to a recent study the planet is within the habitable zone and so could have liquid water on its surface.

Proxima b is rocky like Earth but a little larger at 1.3 times the size. Its orbit takes abour 11 days but Proxima Centauri is not as hot as our own sun so this proximity does not mean it would be like Mercury.

The Pale Red Dot campaign aimed to find a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri and succeeded!
The Pale Red Dot campaign aimed to find a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri and succeeded!

The bad news is the closeness to its star means the planet will be subject to huge amounts of radiation in the form of X-ray flares.

This episode also looks at secret military space projects and examines whether the moon might be fairly rich in the basic elements needed for life.

Watch NASA’s Unexplained Files – The Earth Next Door tonight at 9 PM on Science Channel.


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