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ALMA discovers cold dust around nearest star

3 November 2017 Astronomy Now

The ALMA Observatory in Chile has detected dust around the closest star to the Solar System, Proxima Centauri. These new observations reveal 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 hint at the presence of an even cooler outer dust belt and may indicate the presence of an elaborate planetary system.

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International Astronomical Union formally approves 227 star names

24 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The creation of a specialised IAU Working Group, the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), was approved by the IAU Executive Committee in May 2016 to formalise star names that have been used colloquially for centuries. WGSN has now established a new catalogue of IAU star names, with the first set of 227 approved names published on the IAU website.

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Breakthrough Listen searches new-found nearby planet Proxima b for signs of ET

8 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Breakthrough Listen, the 10-year, $100-million astronomical search for intelligent life beyond Earth launched in 2015 by Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, has just announced its first observations of newly-discovered Earth-size planet Proxima b orbiting the nearest star to the Sun using the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

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Low-mass star simulations favour water-rich, Earth-sized planets

24 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists at the University of Bern conducting computer simulations of the formation of planets orbiting in the habitable zone of low-mass stars, such as the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, show that these planets are most likely to be roughly the size of the Earth and to contain large amounts of water.

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Oldest known planet-forming circumstellar disc discovered

22 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A group of citizen scientists and professional astronomers joined forces to discover an unusual hunting ground for exoplanets. They found a red dwarf, called AWI0005x3s, surrounded by the oldest known circumstellar disc — a 45-million-year-old primordial ring of gas and dust orbiting the star from which planets can form.

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Proxima Centauri might be more Sun-like than we thought

11 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers recently announced that the nearby star Proxima Centauri hosts an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone. Proxima Centauri is a small, cool, red dwarf star only one-tenth as massive and one-thousandth as luminous as the Sun. However, new research shows that it is Sun-like in one surprising way: it has a regular cycle of starspots.

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Best image of Alpha Centauri A and B

29 August 2016 Astronomy Now

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has given us this stunning view of the closest bright stars Alpha Centauri A (on the left) and Alpha Centauri B (on the right), at a distance of 4.3 light-years from the Earth. The Alpha Centauri group is completed by a faint red dwarf, Proxima Centauri (not shown), recently revealed to possess an Earth-like planet orbiting in its habitable zone.