- Written by Josh
Last week was a big week for space exploration. The biggest piece of news has been the discovery of Alpha Centauri B b.
This rather imaginatively named object is an exoplanet, a planet around another star. Now with over 800 exoplanets discovered, why are we interested in this one?
Alpha Centauri B b has a couple of reasons why it is so exciting, the first being its location. This exoplanet is orbiting the star closest to our own star the Sun. This interests us because it is the closest exoplanet to our solar system. The next amazing piece of information is its size. Alpha Centauri B b is roughly the same mass as Earth, having only 10% more. So far our search for Earth-like exoplanets has been driven by our search for Aliens. Unfortunately we are pretty certain that Life would not be present on this new planet. This is because it sits very close to its parent star; this will drive the heat up on the planet to un-survivable temperatures.
The next piece of big news is a little closer to home, but not by much. Over on the surface of the red planet, the rover Curiosity is flexing its scooping arm. On 17 October the first scoop of Martian soil was swallowed by the nuclear powered, laser armed science tank. This tiny sample of soil will now be analysed by a suite of onboard sensors. This soil sampler and the on board laser will help to give us an insight into the exact composition of the Martian surface. With this information we hope to piece together the history of Mars. This will tell us if Mars was ever capable of supporting life.