Astronomers are currently investigating Proxima Centauri, a star just 4.25 light years from Earth, to see whether it has more planets surrounding it.
Last year, experts found one planet, known as Proxima b, orbiting the red dwarf star which was found to be in the star’s habitable zone – the region where it is neither too hot or too cold for life to exist.
However, researchers have now found that the star is surrounded by belts of dust, which could suggest that there are more planets there than previously thought.
The dust is thought to have a temperature of -230C which would be similar to that of the Kuiper Belt which is found in our solar system.
Belts of dust surrounding stars are thought to be leftovers from the formation of planets.
Lead author Guillem Anglada from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Granada, Spain said: “The dust around Proxima is important because, following the discovery of the terrestrial planet Proxima b, it’s the first indication of the presence of an elaborate planetary system, and not just a single planet, around the star closest to our Sun.
“This result suggests that Proxima Centauri may have a multiple planet system with a rich history of interactions that resulted in the formation of a dust belt. ‘Further study may also provide information that might point to the locations of as yet unidentified additional planets.”
Enrique Macías, who has been analysing Proxima Centauri using Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma), told the Verge: “So we think that whenever there is a planet around a star, there’s going to be some kind of asteroid belt as well.
“It’s just debris from the formation of the system. That’s what we were looking for.”