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Proxima Centauri b

Proxima Centauri b

Earth-like Planet Detected


Scientists have announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting our nearest star—Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is a triple-star system, made up of:

  • Alpha Centauri A
  • Alpha Centauri B
  • Proxima Centauri


To the naked eye, these three stars look like one star. The Alpha Centauri system is the third-brightest "star" visible from Earth (and only visible in the southern hemisphere). The newly discovered planet orbits Proxima Centauri.


What we know so far about the planet:

  • It is "only" 4.3 light years away (over 25 trillion miles).
  • The planet is 1.25 times the size of Earth. 
  • It orbits in the Goldilocks zone: i.e., in a range that would allow for liquid water on the surface.
  • Because the star it orbits is a red dwarf (a star that puts out little light), the Goldilocks zone for that star is very close to it.
  • The planet orbits its star every 11.2 days.
  • Because the planet is so close to its star, it is bathed in intense radiation—it receives 400 times the amount of X-rays that Earth does.
  • Life as we know it, therefore, is not likely, unless—
  • It has an atmosphere. An atmosphere could, theoretically, block much of the harmful radiation.
  • British scientists have announced that they may have detected liquid water on the planet.


Discovering a planet around one of our nearest stars demonstrates how common planets may be in the universe. Scientists estimate that there are likely more than one billion Earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone. Since Proxima Centauri has a planet, it raises the likelihood that its much more Sun-like companion stars, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, may also have planets.


Traveling to Proxima Centauri b in the near future is impossible—at this time we can't even send humans back to the Moon. It may be possible, however, to send unmanned probes to Proxima Centauri b. Earlier this year, the Starshot Initiative was announced: a program to seed nearby star systems with tiny probes no bigger than a coin. Laser beams would propel these small craft to within a fraction of the speed of light, allowing them to cross vast distances relatively quickly. The first of these may be launched in 2035. Knowing, as we do now, that our closest celestial neighbor harbors an Earth-like planet may help in the selection of a potential target for these probes. Here is a link to the Website for the Starshot Initiative:

Starshot Initiative


And here are links to more information about the new planet:

Franck Marches, "Proxima Centauri b: Have We Just Found Earth’s Cousin Right on Our Doorstep?," The Planetary Society (24 August 2016).

Rachel Feltman, "Everything You Need to Know About the New Planet Proxima b (in GIFs)," The Washington Post (25 August 2016).



Selected Composition


Star Trek: Voyager—Main Theme



Program Notes


The notes of the opening fanfare of the main theme of the original Star Trek television series have become some of the most recognizable in all of music—but there are many notable fanfares in the various Star Trek television shows and movies, including Star Trek: Voyager, which includes a majestic trumpet fanfare as its main theme. Jerry Goldsmith (1929 - 2004) composed this music in 1995; the television show Star Trek: Voyager ran from 1995 to 2001. To honor the discovery of Proxima Centauri b, I listened to Jerry Goldsmith conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the original television soundtrack for Star Trek: Voyager (from the album The Best Of Star Trek: 30th Anniversary Special):

Star Trek: Voyager—Main Title (Extended Version)





I created "And Flaming Stars," the image above, in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot Fractals. The title is from the poem "Beyond the Stars," by the American poet Charles Hanson Towne (1877 - 1949); in the poem, people reminisce together about a friend who has died:

Another said: "Last night I saw the moon
Like a tremendous lantern shine in heaven, 
And I could only think of him-and sob. 
For I remembered evenings wonderful
When he was faint with Life's sad loveliness, 
And watched the silver ribbons wandering far
Along the shore, and out upon the sea. 
Oh, I remembered how he loved the world, 
The sighing ocean and the flaming stars.








Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick

Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy