#Planet #Earth – Earth-like planet NEARBY that scientists tout as humanity’s next destination : Reports emerged last week that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) had discovered the rocky planet using NASA’s Kepler Telescope. The potential news excited stargazers but the ESO kept schtum at the time. However, they have now confirmed its existence.
The planet, which has been dubbed Proxima b, is located four light-years away – which is still in excess of 25 trillion miles – and orbiting the red-dwarf star Proxima Centauri. It is the closest habitable planet to Earth, meaning scientists could feasibly reach it within a lifetime.
Experts state that robotic crafts could be sent there in the not too distant future, and beyond that, if the atmosphere proves to be safe and technology makes it a possibility, it could one day be reached by humanity.
Proxima b is only five per cent of the distance that the Earth is from the sun to its star, but as the star is a red-dwarf, it is much cooler, meaning that the planet is still in the ‘goldilocks zone’ – the region of space around a host star where it is not too hot, nor too cold.
However, the planet is being bombarded by powerful ultraviolet rays and X-rays from Proxima Centauri so any life there would have needed to evolve to be equipped to deal with this.
Dr Guillem Anglada-Escude, from Queen Mary University of London, who led an international team, said:
“Succeeding in the search for the nearest terrestrial planet beyond the solar system has been an experience of a lifetime, and has drawn on the dedication and passion of a number of international researchers.
“We hope these findings inspire future generations to keep looking beyond the stars. The search for life on Proxima b comes next.”
Colleague Dr Mikko Tuomi, from the University of Hertfordshire, said: “According to the findings the planet has a rocky surface and is only a fraction more massive than the Earth.
“It is the closest possible exoplanet to us and may be the closest to support life outside the solar system.” The planet was discovered using a 3.6 metre telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at La Silla in Chile’s Atacama desert.
Co-author of the study published in the journal Nature, Dr John Barnes, from the Open University, said: “If further research concludes that the conditions of its atmosphere are suitable to support life, this is arguably one of the most important scientific discoveries we will ever make.” Source: express