A team of European astronomers have announced that it has discovered a new planet. The planet is the same mass as Earth in Alpha Centauri, a triple-star system that is the Sun’s closest neighbour. It is only 4.4 light-years away.
The planet is the lightest ever found orbiting another star. And according to its discoverer, Xavier Dumusque, “it will surely be the closest one ever.”
The planet reportedly looks like a rocky ball, much like Earth. It circles Alpha Centauri B, a reddish orb about half as luminous as the Sun, every three days at a distance of only about four million miles. This apparently results in scorching surface temperatures of 1,200 degrees.
The New York Times reports that the astronomers said the discovery raised the possibility that there were habitable Earth-like planets right next door. Methods and instruments are apparently now precise enough to detect them.
The astronomy world has become abuzz with news of the planet. However, insiders are warning that they need more confirmation by other astronomers. And according to the New York Times, that’s no easy task.
The team of European astronomers say they will make their data available to other astronomers to test their findings. But in the meantime, many will certainly remain skeptical of the discovery.