A habitable planet in the star system next door?

All this time we've been searching our part of the galaxy for a habitable, Earthlike planet- and it turns out that it could be orbiting one of the stars next door.

Astronomers  from the European Southern Observatory have confirmed that Proxima Centauri has a planet about the size of Earth, orbiting the red dwarf at a distance that would seem to be within the "Goldilocks Zone" ("not too hot, not too cold, but just right") and theoretically capable of harboring liquid water and supporting life.

That's "Proxima" as in "proximity." Proxima Centauri- a double star "only" 4.5 light years away- is the closest star other than the Sun to Earth!

There is plenty we don't know about Proxima b, as the newly-discovered planet is known. It is still too far away to reach through current means of space travel. But the discovery of EM drive,  advances in warp drive, and ion propulsion (which has actually been tested in one of the most important but least-publicized NASA missions in history, Deep Space I) are promising solutions to the problem.

At least two telescopes will be put into Earth orbit in the next two years which should tell us more about the newly-discovered planet.  But in any case, Proxima b- which is closer to the size of Earth than previously-discovered "Goldilocks" exoplanets- has got to be regarded as one of the most exciting discoveries in astronomical history.

Artist's conception of the surface of Proxima b By ESO/M. Kornmesser (https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1629a/) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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