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Astronomers have discovered a third planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun. Dubbed Proxima Centauri d, the newly spotted world is probably a bit smaller than Earth, and well within the habitable zone of its host star — meaning that it could have oceans of liquid water that can potentially harbour life.

“It’s showing that the nearest star probably has a very rich planetary system,” says Guillem Anglada-Escudé, an astronomer at the Institute for Space Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, who led the team that in 2016 discovered the first planet to be seen orbiting Proxima Centauri.

Astronomer João Faria and his collaborators detected Proxima Centauri d by measuring tiny shifts in the spectrum of the star’s light as the planet’s gravity pulled it during orbit. The team used a state-of-the art spectrograph called ESPRESSO at the Very Large Telescope, a system of four 8.2-metre telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Cerro Paranal, Chile. The results were published on 10 February in Astronomy & Astrophysics1.

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