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Just a few days ago we published in ABC an article about a research that had confirmed the existence of Next b, an exoplanet similar to the Earth the closest star to the Sun. But the star blanket to this earth, named proxima Centauri, is giving a lot more than talking these days. Several investigations are pointing to the possibility that there exist more planets, apart from Next b: a whole solar system to discover and observe with the next generation of instruments.

This week, Fritz Benedict , researcher emeritus at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin, Usa, announced some findings that confirm a previous study that suggested the existence of Next (c, a cold world located beyond the Next b . Thanks to the analysis of old data collected by the Hubble space telescope, the astronomer claims to have given evidence that there is a world, that could be a supertierra or a minineptuno, which takes 1.907 days in one lap around proxima Centauri. Their findings were published this week in the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society”, held virtually by the pandemic coronavirus.

Discoveries in proxima Centauri

Next b was discovered in 2016 by the team of the Spanish Guillem Anglada-Escudé, through the radial velocity method: it is based not on direct observation of the planets or on the detection of the transits, the drops in brightness caused by planets passing in front of its star, but in studying the effect of its mass on the motion of the stars . Thanks to this, we can deduce the mass and the distance of the planet from its star, but it becomes necessary to make more observations to refine the parameters and to confirm the findings.

detection Method radial velocity: The circular motion of the star allows us to estimate the mass of the exoplanet. When the star is about, in relationship with the Earth, its radiation is shifted towards the blue, and when it moves away, toward the red. That offset allows you to measure your speed and deduce how the planet

As we have already said at the beginning of the article, few days ago a study led by astronomers at the Geneva observatory (Switzerland) confirmed the existence of Next b, and improved estimates of its mass. But in addition to that, these scientists suggested the existence of a new planet in proxima Centauri. Although Next b is very close to its star, seven times closer to it than Mercury is to the Sun, astronomers found signs that there might be another small world located still closer. Could it be that apart from Next b there’s a world even more inside .

A possible new planet: Next c

The story does not end here. Earlier this year the team of Mario Damasso, of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), in Italy, proposed the existence of Next (c, another planet located in the orbit of proxima Centauri, but much more far than the Next b . Through the radial velocity technique, Damasso and colleagues concluded that this exoplanet is at a distance 50% greater than is the Earth from the Sun and has between four and eight land masses.

These days, the research driven by Fritz Benedict, an astronomer at the McDonald Observatory, has come to support with new results proposed by Damasso, at the same time it has fine-tuned their estimates.

The topic is hot , ” said Ignasi Ribas , a researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC). As explained, the study of Benedict is the confirmation of the discovery of Damasso medienta astrometry –a technique that accurately measures the position of the stars, which is very interesting.” However, he notes that it has not been the only confirmation: an investigation led by Raffaele Gratton, astronomer at the observatory of Padua (Italy), published in April the results of a detection attempt for direct image achieved with the instrument SPHERE, the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in Chile.

The confirmation of Fritz Benedict has come because he decided to recover some data that has worked for decades. The data were collected by the Hubble space telescope, in the nineties, and have registered the position of proxima Centauri. So, thanks to the astrometry, Benedict has tracked signals of the presence of a planet with a period of 1.907 days, which coincides with the estimates of Damasso. According to their calculations, the Next c has about seven land masses.

do There are several planets in proxima Centauri?

what does all this Mean that we can say that there is a solar system with several planets at proxima Centauri? As has been explained to ABC Fritz Benedict, to confirm the existence of the Next c will be necessary to wait for new observations , including the direct image made by instruments such as SPHERE, which has said that there will be that to wait out the pandemic COVID-19 and that “proxima Centauri leaves behind the Sun” (in reality it will be the Sun that moves).

Benedict has also stressed the contribution that could have the european mission Gaia, which could improve 50 times the resolution of its results of astrometry obtained with the Hubble, and that could detect the disturbance caused by Next-b as Next-c proxima Centauri.

in Addition to that, the astronomer has stated that this planet will be a very important target for the next generation of space telescopes (such as WFIRST), as well as the telescopes on the ground, you can use imaging techniques to directly study the atmospheres of these exoplanets, with how important it is to study how they are and whether they could harbor life.