Report: Earth-Like Planet Found in Our Nearest Star System

Monday, 15 August 2016 - 4:21PM
Astronomy
Astrobiology
Earth
Monday, 15 August 2016 - 4:21PM
Report: Earth-Like Planet Found in Our Nearest Star System
Over the last few years, Kepler has discovered thousands of exoplanets, several of which are considered to be potentially "Earth-like." But a new report claims that we might have our first confirmed Earth-like exoplanet, and it's closer than we ever could have hoped for, in the nearest star system to Earth.

The report comes from Der Spiegel (via Phys.org), which claims that an Earth-like exoplanet has been found orbiting Proxima Centauri, which is in the same star system as Alpha Centauri, the closest star to Earth. The magazine claims that the planet orbits within the star's "Goldilocks" zone, and that it's rocky and similar in composition to Earth. They cite anonymous sources, so there's no way to confirm until an official announcement is made. But if this is true, it will be the closest Earth-like exoplanet ever discovered.

Opening quote
"The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface-an important requirement for the emergence of life," they wrote.
Closing quote

This is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which that this planet could foster life, but it also might have a direct impact on humanity. Most potentially Earth-like exoplanets are so far away, we would either need several lifetimes, stasis chambers, or FTL travel in order to get there. But Proxima Centauri, and this planet by extension, are only 4.24 light years away. And while other stars would require completely futuristic technologies to get there, this star system might be within our reach. Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner just announced Project Starshot, for example, which plans to build tiny, light-powered "nanocrafts" that could reach Alpha Centauri in only 20 years. 


We should take this with a giant grain of salt, especially since the ESO spokesman Richard Hook couldn't confirm or deny this report. "We are not making any comment," he said. But still, this discovery would be so groundbreaking that it's hard not to get excited.

Opening quote
"The discovery of possible planet [sic] around Proxima Centauri is very exciting," Project Starshot leader Phillip Lubin told Universe Today. "It makes the case of visiting nearby stellar systems even more compelling, though we know there are many exoplanets around other nearby stars and it is very likely that the Alpha Centauri system will also have planets."
Closing quote
Science
Space
Astronomy
Astrobiology
Earth