Scientists have discovered a planet that appears to be similar to Earth circling the star closest to the sun, according to research published on Wednesday.
The planet, known as Proxima b, is located about 4.2 light-years from Earth, making it the closest of some 3,500 planets that were discovered beyond the solar system since 1995, experts announced in the latest issue of the journal Nature.
The relative proximity of the planet gives scientists a better chance to eventually capture an image of it, to help them establish whether it has an atmosphere and water, Reuters reported.
“The key question of our initiative was whether there were potentially life-bearing planets orbiting these stars. We know now there is at least one planet with some characteristics similar to the Earth,” Pete Worden, a former top NASA manager, was quoted as saying.
For the study, scientists from eight different countries spent several months collecting data, using telescopes of the European Southern Observatory.
Astronomers got their first hint of a planet circling the sun’s small dim neighbor star in 2013. But they needed additional observations, using more precise instruments, to make a definitive call.
– Contact us at [email protected]