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Proxima b Is Important, Fascinating And Maybe Habitable. But Surely It is Not “Earth-like”

12 Sep 2016, 15:47 UTC
Proxima b Is Important, Fascinating And Maybe Habitable.  But Surely It is Not “Earth-like”
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A simulated comparison of a sunset on Earth and Proxima b. The images sets out to show that the red-dwarf star Proxima Centauri appears almost three times bigger than our sun in a redder and darker sky. There is value in illustrating how conditions in different solar systems would change physical conditions on the planets, but there is a real danger that the message conveyed becomes the similarities between planets such as Earth and Proxima b. At this point, there is no evidence that Proxima b is “Earth-like” at all. The original photo of the beach was taken at Playa Puerto Nuevo in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. (PHL @ UPR Arecibo))
It is often discussed within the community of exoplanet scientists that a danger lies in the description of intriguing exoplanets as “Earth-like.”
Nothing discovered so far warrants the designation, which is pretty nebulous anyway. Size and the planet’s distance from a host star are usually what earn it the title “Earth-like,” with its inescapable expectation of inherent habitability. But residing in a habitable zone is just the beginning; factors ranging from the make-up of the planet’s host star to the presence and content of an atmosphere and whether it ...

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