Mysterious Exoplanets: Proxima Centauri, the Closest Exoplanet to Earth
Supervisor: Dr. Paul Wiegert
Project Description (Abstract):
Extrasolar planets or 'exoplanets' are planets which orbit not our own Sun, but other stars in the Galaxy. The discovery of these exoplanets has revealed that our planetary system is just one of a wide array of possibly planetary configurations.
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth, at about 4 light-years, and is part of the alpha Centauri triple star system. A planet Proxima Centauri b was reported orbiting Proxima within its habitable zone in 2016. The planet was detected by the radial velocity method, and hasn't yet been imaged.
In 1951, American astronomer Harlow Shapley announced that Proxima Centauri is a flare star.Examination of past photographic records showed that the star displayed a measurable increase in magnitude on about 8% of the images, making it the most active flare star then known.
The dynamics of this system are still not completely understood. This project will involve doing computer simulations with a pre-existing computer code of the Proxima Centauri system to explore the interactions of the planet with the stars, and to better determine the planet's orbit and mass.
preprint of planet discovery paper: https://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1629/eso1629a.pdf
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