A very rare phenomenon of gravitational lensing scheduled to occur in 2028, will allow us to see from up close the recently discovered alien world Proxima B, an alien planet located in the Proxima Centauri system and believed to orbit its star in the so-called habitable zone. Proxima B has been dubbed as the ‘Second Earth’ and scientists believe it is a rocky planet with liquid water on its surface capable of sustaining life as we know it.
According to ESO, The rare cosmic event was predicted by a team of French astronomers led by Pierre Kervella of the CNRS/Universidad de Chile. It will most likely be the best shot we have of taking a look at Proxima B and its nearby star.
“Using both new and archive data obtained with a range of ESO telescopes, the team has predicted the trajectories of the fast-moving stellar duo known as the Alpha Centauri A and B, with negligible error. That has allowed them to predict every close alignment until 2050 between the Alpha Centauri pair and the stars which lie close to them on the sky — but which are in fact a great deal further away in space.”
These results provide a chance to hunt for planets in the Alpha Centauri system because it allows us to seek secondary gravitational lensing events. Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive object, like a star, distorts the structure of the space around it.
Experts explain that the light –which comes from a distant object— passing close to the star on its way to us follows a curved path through space. The nearest star acts as a lens, bending the light from the distant object.
In the most impressive cases, this may generate an Einstein ring, a circle of light around the foreground star.
Because the amount of mass of this nearby star determines exactly how the deflection of light occurs, deviations from the effect of expected gravitational lensing can be used to determine the presence of planets and their masses, reports ESO in a statement.
According to experts, one of the most exciting lineups predicted by this study will occur between the stars in the Alfa Centauri system: Alfa Centauri A, and a star located in the background –most likely a red giant— dubbed as S5 reports ESO.
According to scientists, in May of 2028, there are some pretty good odds that light from the star dubbed as S5 will create the so-called Einstein ring around the star Alpha Centauri A, which we can observe using the ESO’s telescopes. This means that we have an excellent opportunity to explore our nearest star system for planets or low-mass objects.
This rare cosmic event will most likely be observed by the GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and the forthcoming European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
This is also a unique opportunity to look for Proxima B, the recently discovered alien world which orbits the third star located in the star system Proxima Centauri.
Find out more:
Featured image: The predicted trajectory of Alpha Centauri A (orange) and B (red), superimposed onto an image taken with the SOFI instrument on ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) and the NACO instrument on the VLT. It shows the conjunction with the star S5 (the brightest star in the NACO image). In the background, a Digitized Sky Survey 2 image is shown.