Earth has a brother four light years from the Sun.

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Confirmed the presence of the brother of the Earth around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, four light years away from the Sun, i.e. a planet of similar mass, which is located in the habitable zone of its star, i.e. the region where the temperatures are such as to allow theliquid water.

The result, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, is due to an international group in which Italy participates with scholars from the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and with its presence in the Espresso consortium which built the crucial tool for discovery, installed on the Very Large Telescope (Vlt) of the Southern European Observatory (Eso) in Chile.

The study, led by Alejandro Suárez Mascareo, of the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics (IAC), confirms the presence of the planet Proxima b, revealing that it has a mass equal to 1.17 times that of the Earth. Proxima b it was discovered four years ago, but only now has it been possible to definitively confirm its existence and accurately measure its mass.

“The Italian astrophysics community is actively involved in research on extrasolar planets made possible by Espresso’s high-precision measurements », notes Mario Damasso, from INAF. “We have observed Proxima over an entire season, and the expectations in terms of precision achieved – he continued – have been fully rewarded”. Proxima b is one of the most interesting planets located near the Sun: both for its mass and because it is located in the habitable region of its star.

However the Proxima star is a very active red dwarf bombing its planet with X-rays; Proxima b receives about 400 times more than the Earth receives from the Sun and it is necessary to understand if the planet has an atmosphere capable of protecting it from these harmful radiations and if it contains chemical elements, such as oxygen, which promote it. development of life. We will try to answer all these questions with future research and with the gigantic Elt telescope that ESO is building in Chile.