2.5 Exploring the Galaxy’s rocky planets
Whether or not Proxima b shows transits, there will be a lot of effort directed at measuring everything we can about Earth’s nearest cousin. As you saw in the video in Section 2.2, we may be able to send small robotic spacecraft to Proxima b. Within 20 or 30 years we may see pictures from this planet, just as we now see images of the Martian landscape from space probes sent with cameras and radio transmitters.
Finding a potentially habitable planet in our own stellar neighbourhood gives us hope that we’ll find plenty more close by. For the transiting examples, we will be able to measure their size and density, and learn about the gases present in their atmospheres. You will learn more about how rocky planets form and how they change over their lifetime. You will also look for evidence that a planet is not only habitable but inhabited.