While the planet Proxima B was discovered in August last year and believed to have an Earth-like atmosphere, a group of scientists from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory in Chile have detected dust belts around Proxima Centauri, a finding that indicates the presence of an elaborate planetary system hosted by the closest star to the solar system.
Moreover, researchers have also revealed the glow coming from cold dust in a region between one to four times as far from Proxima Centauri as the Earth is from the Sun.
The data also hints at the presence of an even cooler outer dust belt and may indicate the presence of a system of planets. These structures are similar to the much larger belts in the solar system and are also expected to be made from particles of rock and ice that failed to form planets.
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun. It is a faint red dwarf lying just four light-years away in the southern constellation of Centaurus.
It is orbited by the Earth-sized temperate world Proxima b, discovered in 2016 and the closest exoplanet to the solar system. However, there is more to this system than just a single planet.
The new ALMA observations reveal emission from clouds of cold cosmic dust surrounding the star.
Earlier, Proxima B was pointed out by the scientists from the University of Exeter. They had undertaken a series of new researchers to explore the potential climate of the planet, towards the longer term goal of revealing whether it has the potential to support life.
Researchers simulated the climate of Proxima B if it were to have a similar atmospheric composition to our own Earth.
The team also explored a much simpler atmosphere, comprising of nitrogen with traces of carbon dioxide, as well as variations of the planets orbit.
This allowed them to both compare with, and extend beyond previous studies.
The results showed that Proxima B could have the potential to be habitable, and could exist in a remarkably stable climate regime.
However, much more work must be done to truly understand whether this planet can support, or indeed does support lives of some form, researchers said.
(With PTI inputs)