Alpha Centauri A and B are the bright stars; Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star, is the small, faint one circled in red. (NASA, Julia Figliotti)
Astronomers have been trying for decades to find a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our sun and so a natural and tempting target. Claims of an exoplanet discovery have been made before, but so far none have held up.
Now, in a novel and very public way, a group of European astronomers have initiated a focused effort to change all that with their Pale Red Dot Campaign. Based at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and supported by networks of smaller telescopes around the world, they will over the next three months observe Proxima and its environs and then will spend many more months analayzing all that they find. And in an effort to raise both knowledge and excitement, the team will tell the world what they’re doing and finding over Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social and traditional media of all kind.
“We have reason to be hopeful about finding a planet, but we really don’t know what will happen,” said Guillem Anglada-Escudé of Queen Mary University, London, one of ...