Astronomers believe they’ve captured the first ever image of Proxima c, an exoplanet orbiting our nearest star, Proxima Centauri.
Astronomers and enthusiasts have long marveled at Proxima Centauri not only because of its relatively short distance from our own solar system (4.2 light-years, to be exact), but because it also has a planet orbiting in the habitable zone.
Proxima b made waves when astronomers first discovered it in 2016. Since it lies in the habitable zone, it could potentially host liquid water, and, in turn, life.
The astronomers reassessed data collected by the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile and pinpointed 19 potential observations of Proxima c. The journal Astronomers and Astrophysics published the scientists’ findings, which first appeared on arXiv.org, Scientific American reports.
Proxima c, likely a miniature copycat planet of our Neptune, is roughly seven times the mass of Earth. The planet is also reportedly very bright, which could mean it hosts a ring system larger than Saturn’s—some astronomers are skeptical—or that it’s surrounded by a cloud of dust.
There’s a lot of information astronomers could glean from these observations. It could help them better understand Proxima b—Proxima Centauri’s planetary golden child. Like the planets in our solar system, the exoplanets around Proxima Centauri are expected to orbit the star along the same plane. The more information we can collect about Proxima c, the better we’ll get to know Proxima b.
Read more: yahoo