Want more? Take this brief tour of Proxima Centauri, possibly our nearest exoplanet:
Mark Garlick writes about Proxima:
Proxima Centauri has been in the media a lot lately. This tiny red dwarf - only 1/7 the diameter of the Sun - is the closest star outside the Solar System, at 4.25 light-years.
What's so special about it? Well, it's got a planet in orbit around it dubbed, unceremoniously, Proxima b. The media has been calling this an 'Earth-like' planet but that's a misnomer. What they mean is terrestrial - it's made of rocky and metal, like the Earth, not a fluid like say Jupiter. But it could easily be as airless as Mercury or as sterile and stifling as Venus. Personally, I think it's likely to have some sort of atmosphere. It's heavier and bigger than the Earth, so it has the gravity to retain heavy gases, unlike Mercury and Mars. It also orbits in its star's habitable zone - theoretically, a region surrounding a star within which liquid water can exist on an the surface of orbiting body.
Below is my take on it. I've included an atmosphere but no water. To the left of Proxima is Alpha Centauri, a binary consisting of two Sun-like stars.
Proxima is a flare star - it's highly magnetic and spews out streams of charged particles. If the world has its own magnetic field (like Earth) and an atmosphere, this would be a fantastic place to go aurora spotting!
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