New Earth-Sized Planet Discovered In Alpha Centauri, Said To Be Closest To Earth
All you pop-science and astronomy buffs — this one's for you. Alpha Centauri, the triple-star system that is the closest to us, suspended in space only about 4.4 light years from our Sun, appears to be the home of a newly discovered planet that is being said to be the closest planet to us that's outside our solar system.
The new planet, discovered by European astronomers, orbits Alpha Centauri B, the smaller of two paired stars in the system, reports the European Southern Observatory. "This result represents a major step towards the detection of a twin Earth in the immediate vicinity of the Sun. We live in exciting times!” said astronomer at the Universidade do Porto, Portugal, Xavier Dumusque and the head author of the new discovery, which has been dubbed Alpha Centauri Bb, which has nearly Earth-sized mass and is thought to be a rocky, rather than a gaseous, planet.
The new planet orbits about six million miles away from its star, much closer than Mercury is to the Sun in our solar system, making it far too hot to support life or actually be Earth-like other than in its size, orbiting pattern or makeup. But that doesn't mean that Alpha Centauri might not support other such Earth-like planets. “This is the first planet with a mass similar to Earth ever found around a star like the Sun. Its orbit is very close to its star and it must be much too hot for life as we know it,” said Stéphane Udry from the Geneva Observatory and co-author of the paper announcing the discovery. "But it may well be just one planet in a system of several," he added.
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