Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Prospects for Characterizing the Atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
August 28, 2016
Filed under
Prospects for Characterizing the Atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b

The newly detected Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri could potentially host life – if it has an atmosphere that supports surface liquid water.

We show that thermal phase curve observations with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) from 5-12 microns can be used to test the existence of such an atmosphere. We predict the thermal variation for a bare rock versus a planet with 35% heat redistribution to the nightside and show that a JWST phase curve measurement can distinguish between these cases at 5σ confidence.

We also consider the case of an Earth-like atmosphere, and find that the ozone 9.8 micron band could be detected with longer integration times (a few months). We conclude that JWST observations have the potential to put the first constraints on the possibility of life around the nearest star to the Solar System.

Laura Kreidberg, Abraham Loeb
(Submitted on 26 Aug 2016)

Comments: submitted to ApJL; comments welcome!
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1608.07345 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1608.07345v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Laura Kreidberg
[v1] Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:54:42 GMT (442kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻