Scientists at the European Space Observatory have discovered an earth sized ‘potentially habitable’ planet orbiting the nearest star to our galaxy.
The revelation may be a further step closer to answering the question mankind has wondered for generations; ‘Are we alone in this universe, or are there other lifeforms out there?’
The scientific boffins have discovered a planet, named Proxima B which orbits a star called Proxima Centauri, which is the nearest known star to the Sun.
The scientists have discovered that the surface of of this rocky globe is moving in a zone that would make liquid water on its surface a possibility. The researchers said that the potential for water may make this planet the closest possible home for life outside our solar system.
The fact that the planet has been discovered, in scientific terms, so close to u; at a mere 4.2 light years (40 trillion km, or 25 trillion miles) away from our solar system also bodes well for further research.
The study author Guillem Anglada Escude stated;
“It’s not only the closest terrestrial planet found, it’s probably the closest planet outside our solar system that will ever be found because there is no star closer to the solar system than this one.”
Previous planets that had been discovered thought potential to be habitable were said to be ‘close’ at a staggering 40 light years away.
However, ‘close’ is a relative term when it comes to space exploration. The spacecraft engineers Breakthrough Starshot had earlier this year announced plans to send a tiny spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri system later this century. It would take their craft more than 20 years to reach Proxima Centauri if the craft was traveling at its estimated speed of 20% of the speed of light and a further 4 years to send word back that it had arrived.
SOME MORE FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT PROXIMA B
1) Proxima B is a rocky terrestrial planet and is about 1.3 times the size of the Earth.
2) Its orbits its parent star, the dim red dwarf known as Proxima Centauri at a distance of 7.5 million km from it, meaning its years last just 11.2 days.
3) It was discovered using a 3.6 m long telescope based at European Southern Observatory at La Silla in Chile’s Atacama desert. The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher was able to measure the tiny “wobble” in the star’s position caused by its interaction with the planet’s gravity.
4) Breakthrough Starshot and its attempts to further space exploration is being funded to the tune of $100 m by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Stephen Hawking.