This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Alpha Centauri B is the most brilliant object in the sky and the other dazzling object is Alpha Centauri A. Our own sun is visible to the upper right. The tiny signal of the planet was found with the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Image released Oct. 17, 2012.
CREDIT: ESO/L. Calçada

Nearby Earth-Sized Alien Planet Could Spur Interstellar Exploration

by Mike Wall, Senior Writer
Date: 18 October 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

The recent discovery of an Earth-size alien planet right next door to us could help spark humanity’s first true steps beyond our own solar system, scientists say.

On Tuesday (Oct. 16), a European team announced the existence of Alpha Centauri Bb, a roasting-hot world residing in the nearest star system to our own, just 4.3 light-years away. The find could spur serious and sustained efforts to explore the newfound planet and any siblings it may have in the three-star Alpha Centauri system, say researchers not involved in the discovery.

“This is a huge motivator for the future of sending probes outside of our planetary system and humans trying to figure out how to travel to another star system,” MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager told via email. “I think the reality of a planet and the promise of more is a game changer.”

Read more: Nearby Alien Planet Could Spur Interstellar Exploration | Space.

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