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UK astronomers contribute to the discovery of a new potential planetary system

Dust detected around one of the closest stars to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, may indicate the presence of an elaborate planetary system.

An international team, that included astronomers from UK institutes, used the ALMA Observatory in Chile to make these new observations. Their findings revealed a glow coming from cold dust in a region that is between one to four times as far from Proxima Centauri as the Earth is from the Sun. The data hints at the presence of an even cooler outer dust belt, which could indicate the presence of an elaborate planetary system.

Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our Sun. It is a faint red dwarf lying just four light-years away in the southern constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). It is orbited by the Earth-sized temperate world Proxima b, discovered in 2016 and the closest planet to our Solar System. But 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.

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