It seems like that as long as there has been a ‘space race’, eyes have turned to Mars for the possibility of life outside of our own planet. For years, scientists across the world have placed their research into this basket and as a result, it has begun to permeate pop-culture. Now, new research seems to be taking a stance directly opposite of this long-lasting theory. The reason? A study was done on Proxima Centauri B, a Mars-like planet that orbits a red dwarf star nearly four lightyears away, and it has begun to gain some momentum.
Proxima Centauri B had been in the crosshairs of scientific research for a while now as humans try to find a habitable planet. Proxima Centauri B was first located in 2016 and researchers were instantly ecstatic about what they had potentially found. The rocky little planet orbited a red dwarf star in an area that was deemed ‘habitable’. With that being said, new studies have put the idea to rest. According to research, the atmosphere on Proxima Centauri B would likely have been stripped away over years due to the red dwarf star.
This study works in tandem with the job that Bruce Jakosky of MAVEN is performing. Jakosky is the principal investigator for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, shortened just to MAVEN. MAVEN has been in orbit around Mars since 2014 in order to gauge the level of atmospheric loss as well as the speed-rate by which it is vanishing. Without a magnetic field around the planet, the sun will slowly strip away the atmosphere.
According to accepted research in the field, Mars once had water that could flow on the surface of the planet — billions and billions of years ago. This led scientists to speculate that Mars might once have had life, albeit for a short period of time. The reason that the water went, and potential life with it, was due to the atmosphere being stripped away. This is turning into a fundamental problem in the ever elusive search for life and habitability on planets.
While MAVEN continues to study Mars, NASA will continue to expand their search. In 2019 NASA will be launching their James Webb Space Telescope. This telescope will allow NASA to get a closer look at planets in order to understand their atmosphere. With this research, NASA hopes to establish the links that could become an ascension to the stars for mankind.