European scientists have discovered a batch of alien worlds out in deep space that could support extraterrestrial life including one orbiting the star closest to our Sun.
Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have spotted a faraway rocky and potentially habitable Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star 4.25 light years from the Sun.
An anonymous astrophysicist at the ESO broke the discovery of the alien world to the German magazine Der Spiegel, although the observatory is waiting for confirmation before it makes an official announcement later this month.
“It was hard work finding the tiny celestial body. We were at the limits of what is technologically possible when it comes to measurements.”
The unnamed exoplanet is .24 light years away from the two stars of Alpha Centauri and is considered part of that system; the constellation is mainly visible from the southern hemisphere.
The faraway alien world circles a small cool red dwarf star, so it most probably exists in constant twilight and any plants and animals living on its surface would look drastically different from those on Earth.
The planet sits in the habitable “goldilocks” zone and should therefore be able to support liquid water on its surface, but because of the darkness, trees and shrubs on the surface would probably be pitch-black in color. The darkly colored leaves would enable the alien plants to use photosynthesis to survive.
The alien planet is several million years older than Earth, so it could contain higher life forms, similar to humans, but its star tends to erupt with violent solar storms, so it’s also possible all the rivers, lakes, and oceans evaporated a long time ago, according to Der Spiegel.
“Never before have planet-hunters come upon another possible Earth that is so nearby.”
The ESO is delaying its official announcement about the alien Earth-like world until later this month possibly because of a mistake they made in 2012 when they said they had discovered a rocky world circling nearby Alpha Centauri B. A later study found that the planet, dubbed Alpha Centauri Bb, almost certainly did not exist.
Another 20 potentially Earth-like planets were discovered by an international team of researchers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope. All the potentially habitable alien worlds lie within the “goldilocks” zone of their respective solar systems meaning they could contain alien life or one day be suitable for human colonization, study co-author Michelle Hill told Space.com.
“It’s exciting to see the sheer amount of planets that are out there. [It] makes you think that there is zero chance of there not being another place where life could be found.”
We might know more about the existence of extraterrestrial life on these distant alien planets when Stephen Hawking and Silicon Valley billionaire Yuri Milner finish building their fleet of nanocraft that are capable of reaching 30 percent the speed of light.
The project, called Breakthrough Starshot, uses small wafer-thin spacecraft that are outfitted with special solar sails capable of catching lasers fired from Earth to accelerate into deep space.
Once completed and launched into space, the tiny ships could reach Alpha Centauri in 15 years where hopefully they would discover more alien worlds, USC’s Professor Phillip Lubin told Universe Today.
“The discovery of a possible planet around Proxima Centauri is very exciting. It makes the case of visiting nearby stellar systems even more compelling, though we know there are many exoplanets around other nearby stars and it is very likely that the Alpha Centauri system will also have planets.”
Do you think there could be alien life on the newly discovered alien world circling Proxima Centauri?
[Image via iStock]