The closest planet to Earth outside the solar system is Proxima Centauri b, and it now appears to have caught the attention of billionaire SpaceX owner Elon Musk after publishing about a 2018 study of the planet’s habitability.
Elon Musk has often commented on his plans to colonize Mars, and his spacecraft, such as the Starship, and special missions are the beginning of his goal of making humanity multi-planetary.
Proxima Centauri b is located in the star’s Goldilocks region, the ideal distance to allow for ideal planet temperatures for liquid water to exist. In the study, through computer simulations, the researchers evaluated whether the planet’s characteristics could truly provide the conditions needed to support liquid water and life.
The main takeaway from our simulations is that there is a good chance the planet will be habitable.
Anthony Del Genio, a planetary scientist at NASA, when the paper was published in 2018
On Sunday, Elon Musk tweeted “practically next door” about the planet.
Proxima centauri b
Proxima Centauri b was discovered in 2016 and is only 4.2 light-years from Earth, and since then astronomers have been trying to understand if it is habitable. This is because, despite being in the habitable zone of its star system, it is so close to its star that one side of it is forever facing it.
These conditions can cause water to be in a gaseous state on the light side and ice on the dark side. But according to the study, the planet’s oceans and atmosphere help balance temperatures and the dark side may not freeze permanently.
However, despite the planet’s relatively close distance, we still lack the technology to travel more than four light years, or 40 trillion kilometers, in a time that does not take thousands of years.
But scientists are developing technology that could allow travel to Proxima Centauri b in just 20 years. If it becomes a reality, Elon Musk may stop worrying about humanity’s long-term survival and start thinking about how to send humans to the planet.
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