NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

JWST may determine if Proxima Centauri b has an atmosphere

News Feature August 29, 2016

Simulation of a the planet/star contrast of Proxima Centauri b by Turbet et al. 2016 compared to the MIRI photon noise limit.

The announcement of an Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone around the nearest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri, enables exciting new possibilities for exoplanetary studies with JWST. The discovery has spurred thinking about further characterization of this planet using the newest generation of observatories. Recent work by Turbet et al.  and Kreidberg & Loeb suggests that it may be possible to measure the thermal emission from the planet using JWST’s MIRI instrument. Such space-based, mid-infrared observations of the Proxima Centauri system may be used to constrain the planet's radius, albedo, inclination, and rotation period, and may determine whether Proxima Centauri b has an atmosphere, which is critical for habitability.

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