Water and reasonable temperatures. The planet closest to our solar system, Proxima b, may well be the best place for the first colony outside our solar system. Read here why.
Proxima b is close to the earth and has many similarities with our planet.
1. The planet looks like the earth© M. Kornmesser / ESO
Proxima b is a rocky planet, just like the earth, but it is about 30% heavier and perhaps a bit larger. Astronomers estimate that the planet has a radius that is 80-150% the size of the Earth.
2. Short travel time
Proxima b revolves around the Proxima Centauri star, which is only 4.2 light-years away from the Earth. Although this distance is 271,000 times the distance from the earth to the sun, the planet is closest to our solar system.
For that reason alone, Proxima b is an obvious destination. And the development of new and faster vehicles, for example powered by antimatter, can shorten the journey time there to just seven years.
3. There is (maybe) water on the planet© M. Kornmesser / ESO
Proxima b is located in the so-called habitable zone, just 7.3 million kilometers from its star Proxima Centauri. That is quite close, but not so close that you burn through it, because Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star that is smaller and less warm than the sun.
Because of the distance to Proxima Centauri, Proxima b probably has a bound rotation around this star, and it is always facing the same direction. On the day side of Proxima b it is in that case more than 100 ° C, while on the night side there is permafrost. If this is the case, then there is only water on the border of the day and night side.
But it is also possible that the planet rotates. If that is the case, then the temperature will resemble that of the earth and there will be water everywhere on the celestial body.
4. The atmosphere protects the planet (maybe)
The dwarf star Proxima Centauri emits a large amount of radiation, which means that Proxima receives 400 times as much x-rays as the earth. But a thick cloud cover and an atmosphere can protect the planet against harmful particles.
If the planet rotates quickly, it can also be surrounded by a powerful magnetic field that deflects the radiation.
5. Astronomers can explore the planet© ESO
In the coming years telescopes on land and in space, such as the Extremely Large Telescope installed in Chile, will investigate the thickness of the atmosphere, the power of the magnetic field and the condition of the surface. As a result, more will be known about this before the first manned mission leaves for the planet.