Scientists simulate what a ‘twin’ planet of Earth would look like in Alpha Centauri

Just over four light years away is the closest star system to ours: the Alpha Centauri. It is composed of the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years away, and a little further, 4.37 light-years away, a binary complex with two nearby stars, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. while , we don’t know if there are planets similar to ours, but a team led by scientist Haiyang Wang, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (Switzerland), studied the chemistry of the two stars to deduce the chemical makeup of a hypothetical rocky, habitable planet that was Earth’s “twin”. Of course, in a habitable zone of the system – that is, the one most likely to have “perfect” water and conditions for life.

Surprisingly, the models made by Wang and his team suggest that the Earth of Alpha Centauri would be quite similar to our planet. It would have a mantle, or middle layer, dominated by silicates, and an interior with a water storage capacity similar to the planet in the solar system. The difference, according to the published study in the Journal of Astrophysicswould be that Earth’s twin planet would have more graphite and diamonds in its mantle, which would likely make it brighter.

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Another interesting – and more promising – point is that the simulated Earth exhibits an early atmosphere similar to the planet in the solar system during the Archean eon, around 4 to 2.5 billion years ago. It was at this time that life appeared on our planet in the form of microbes.

The planet would have a more ferrous core than ours

On the other hand, however, Alpha Centauri’s Earth would be different from normal Earth as it would likely have a slightly larger iron core than our own. Its surface would also not obey the theory of plate tectonics – the thesis, presented by the German Alfred Wegener in 1913part of the deduction that the earth’s crust is made up of semi-rigid moving blocks that dictate the organization of the continents and oceans.

In any case, the study conducted by Wang offers much more than what an earth twin would look like. The idea is to indicate avenues for the future exploration of exoplanets. In recent times, this concept has gained strength as hypervelocity spacecraft research — at 20% the speed of light — increases. With such devices, we would be able, for example, to reach Alpha Centauri in just 20 years.

Main image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser (image shows an artist’s impression of what a planet would look like in Alpha Centauri)

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