What is Proxima b and how big is it?
Proxima b is a new Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri – the closest neighbouring star to the Sun.
It occupies in the “habitable zone” of the star, where temperatures are cool enough for the water, and therefore life, to thrive.
Science boffins believe it is slightly more massive than the Earth.
Does it already have life on it?
It is not yet clear whether life already exists on the so-called “exo-planet”.
However, researchers believe it may have deep global oceans similar to Earth, creating conditions hospitable for life.
This is to due to its distance from its parent star, which means temperatures are cool enough to permit liquid surface water.
“A habitable rocky planet around Proxima would be the most natural location to where our civilization could aspire to move.”
Professor Abraham Loeb, from Harvard University
When would we be able to live there?
The planet is is just 4.27 light years away – close enough to be reached by future space missions.
The first phase of the project, named Starshot, to reach the planet will start within the next five to ten years.
And the project aims to launch a “nanocraft” towards Proxima Centauri within the next two to three decades.
Professor Abraham Loeb, from Harvard University, US, raised the possibility of humans one day colonising Proxima b.
“The lifetime of Proxima is several trillion years, almost a thousand times longer than the remaining lifetime of the Sun,” he said.
“Hence, a habitable rocky planet around Proxima would be the most natural location to where our civilization could aspire to move after the Sun will die, five billions years from now.”
How long would it take to get there?
Using the most up to date technology available to scientists, it would take 20 years to reach Proxima.
The Starshot spacecraft will be the first vessel to make the trip after it shoots through space at up to 20 percent the speed of light.
Once it reaches the planet, it will transmit pictures back to earth, which will take five years to return.
NASA/PENN STATE UNIVERSITY
How would we eat and drink there? Is the water drinkable?
Starshot’s mission is to find out whether about gravity conditions, access to water and ability to farm food and radiation levels.
Water and food availability would depend on the environmental conditions.
What’s the weather/temperature like?
Researchers say the the planet is regularly bathed in powerful ultraviolet radiation and X-rays from flares erupting from its parent star.
This could indicate warmer temperatures than Earth.