European astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet just outside our solar system, and have said that it is the closest they have found to Earth in both location and size.
The newly discovered planet is the kind that astronomers have been searching for across the Milky Way galaxy, reports Yahoo! News. While the planet, which is 25 trillion miles away, is virtually the same size as Earth, the newly discovered Earth-like planet is so hot that its surface could be like molten lava.
Life cannot survive the 2,200 degree heat of the planet, which is so close to its star that its “year” lasts only a few days. The European astronomers who discovered the Earth-like planet believe that there are other planets circling the same star farther away in the zone that could allow it to have water and life.
This means that the planet, which lies in the Alpha Centauri B star system, could be a just-right planet much closer than astronomers previously imagined.
The Alpha Centauri B system is so close that it can be seen in the night sky without a telescope in the southern sky. However, it is still so far that a trip there using our current technology would take tens of thousands of years.
According to Wired, astronomer Stephane Udry of the University of Geneva, one of the co-authors of the paper, which will appear in Nature on October 17, stated:
“Finding in our closest neighbor a one-Earth-mass planet really opens up the prospect for finding planets there in the habitable zone.”
When researching Alpha Centauri B to discover an Earth-like planet, the team logged over 450 days of observation. They took down such precise data that they were able to see sunspots on the star, as well as the effects from giant solar flares. Greg Laughlin, an astronomer with the University of California, Santa Cruz, who is not involved in the work, stated, “The amount of erroft they’ve devoted to this star is pretty much unprecedented.”
The fact that the Earth-sized planet is so close to our solar system is exciting to astronomers, meaning that they will be able to make follow-up observations to determine more characteristics of the new exoplanet.