There may be an Earthlike exoplanet only four light years away
The first exoplanet was discovered more than 20 years ago, and in the intervening years we’ve spotted more than 3,000 likely planets outside our Solar System. Many of them are gas giants, and many more are outside the temperature range that could support life as we know it. There are, however, a few tantalizing candidates out there that could harbor life. It turns out there could be one in our own galactic backyard.According to a new report, scientists from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) are preparing to announce the discovery of a potentially habitable exoplanet in orbit of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth. Proxima Centauri is one of three stars in the trinary Centauri system. Centauri A and B are both larger and brighter than our Sun, but Proxima Centauri is a low-mass red dwarf that’s about a quarter of a light year closer to Earth. It’s still 4.25 light years away from us, but that’s very close in the grand scheme.The discovery was allegedly made with the reflecting telescope at La Silla observatory in Chile. This is the same instrument that was used to discover another exoplanet orbiting Alpha Centauri a few years ago, but that analysis has since been called into question. The anonymous source for this information told Der Spiegel that the existence of this new exoplanet is beyond doubt. If it is indeed a habitable exoplanet, it would need to be much closer to its red dwarf parent star to be warm enough for life to exist. On the plus side, red dwarfs are extremely long-lived stars, so the planet may have been habitable for a very long time. Maybe long enough for intelligent life to evolve?This is all still speculation until the ESO issues an official announcement. 4.25 light years is outside our reach for the time being, but its close proximity would make this planet much easier to study. We could learn a great deal about exoplanets if it turns out to be real.