The closest star system to us doesn't have any planets (yet), after all

“You're on Earth. There's no cure for that.” -Samuel Beckett

In 2012, astronomers announced that the nearest star system to us, the Alpha Centauri system, possessed at least one exoplanet around it. A periodic signal that recurred just every 3.24 days was consistent with an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting and gravitationally tugging on the second largest member of the star system: Alpha Centauri B.

That planet, named Alpha Centauri Bb, turns out not to actually be there. A reanalysis of the data shows that a combination of stellar properties and the times at which the observations were made conspired to produce this spurious signal: a signal that goes away if the data is handled correctly. Accounting for everything correctly reveals something else of interest, a periodic 20-day signal, which may turn out -- with better observations -- to be Alpha Centauri's first exoplanet after all.

Image credit: Rajpaul, Aigrain and Roberts, 2015. Via http://arxiv.org/pdf/1510.05598v1.pdf. Image credit: Rajpaul, Aigrain and Roberts, 2015. Via http://arxiv.org/pdf/1510.05598v1.pdf.

Go read the whole story over on Forbes!

More like this

"Our existence in this place, this microscopic corner of the cosmos, is fleeting. With utter disregard for our wants and needs, nature plays out its grand acts on scales of space and time that are truly hard to grasp. Perhaps all we can look to for real solace is our endless capacity to ask…
"We only have one planet that serves as an example and in science it's not good to derive information from a sample size of one." -David Grinspoon Although there will never be a shortage of doubters, the scientific evidence is overwhelming that humans have impacted the planet, particularly over the…
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small." -Neil Armstrong This past week was the 46th anniversary of the first Moon landing for…
"Because practical applications are so remote, many people assume we should not be interested. But this quest to understand the world is what defines us as human beings." -Yuri Milner It’s been another big week here at Starts With A Bang, with stories covering the Universe near and far. First off, …