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Posted

Exoplanet around Alpha Centauri is nearest-ever

Astronomers have found the nearest planet outside our Solar System, circling one of the stars of Alpha Centauri just four light-years away.

The planet has at minimum the same mass as Earth, but circles its star far closer than Mercury orbits our Sun.

It is therefore outside the "habitable zone" denoting the possibility of life, as the researchers report in Nature.

However, studies on exoplanets increasingly show that a star with one planet is likely to have several.

At the very least, the work answers the question first posed in ancient times about planets around our nearest stellar neighbours.

The closest star to the Sun is Proxima Centauri, which is believed to be part of a three-star system that includes the brighter stars Alpha Centauri A and B.

The planet was found near Alpha Centauri B by the Harps instrument at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla facility in Chile.

That puts it far closer to Earth than any of the more than 840 confirmed exoplanets

Like a dance between one enormous and one tiny partner, as an exoplanet orbits its much larger host star, its gravity causes the star to move in a small orbit.

Harps and instruments like it measure the subtle change in colour - the redshift or blueshift - of the host star's light as its orbit moves it slightly closer to and further away from Earth.

The planet whips around Alpha Centauri B in just 3.6 days, and is estimated to have a surface temperature of about 1,200C.

Many planets in similar orbits are "tidally locked", meaning the same side is always facing the host star, but further observations will be required to find out if that is the case

Since the very first planets outside our solar system were discovered in the early 1990s, the hope has been to find an "Earth twin" - a planet like ours, orbiting a star like ours, at a distance like ours.

The new planet around Alpha Centauri B matches Earth only in terms of its mass - making it among the smallest exoplanets we know of.

But in a catalogue with hundreds of confirmed planets and thousands of planet candidates added since 1992, it is otherwise unremarkable - except for its proximity.

"Alpha Centauri B is of course a very special case - it's our next door neighbour," said Stephane Udry of the Observatory in Geneva and senior author of the paper.

"So even if the discovery just stands perfectly normally in the discoveries we have had up to now, it's a landmark discovery, because it's very low-mass and it's our closest neighbour."

Source: BBC News

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Posted

old news, ancients new about the planets of our nearest stars thousands of years ago.

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Posted

Kolob

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Ok, now we simply MUST put a spaceship together and send it there. It's just 5-6 years of traveling at something near the speed of light, after all. I'm aboard, I could leave this stinky planet to itself tomorrow morning, if needed....

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Posted

with any luck it will be full of Cylon Number 8's ...

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Posted

with any luck it will be full of Cylon Number 8's ...

I'd prefer Number 6.

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Posted

I'll have to vacation there this Winter. ;)

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Posted

I hope we don't turn out like the movie Battleship (and what Steven Hawkings warned about) and get the attention of some aliens just to find out they are nasty and unfriendly.

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Ok, now we simply MUST put a spaceship together and send it there. It's just 5-6 years of traveling at something near the speed of light, after all. I'm aboard, I could leave this stinky planet to itself tomorrow morning, if needed....

At 1200C surface temperature, you might want to pack a lot of water! :p

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At 1200C surface temperature, you might want to pack a lot of water! :p

Heh... If we were able to develop a technology able to protect a spaceship traveling at 99,99% the speed of light, I suppose a bit of hot plasmatic atmosphere wouldn't be so much of an issue :-D

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Posted

Let me guess, its called Polyphemus and has a moon called Pandora. Unobtainium economy here we come!

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Posted

Invasion motherships are on the way ...

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At 1200C surface temperature, you might want to pack a lot of water! :p

Uhhh, what good would that do? The water would be vapor before you even made it to the surface.

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Posted

Heh... If we were able to develop a technology able to protect a spaceship traveling at 99,99% the speed of light, I suppose a bit of hot plasmatic atmosphere wouldn't be so much of an issue :-D

Just hope the spaceship's navigation technology isn't using Apple maps.

As for the planet, I hope it's inhabited by cat people.

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Posted

Just hope the spaceship's navigation technology isn't using Apple maps.

I just hope their Windows don't BSOD before they get there.

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Posted

I'll have to vacation there this Winter. ;)

Please send a postcard :)

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Posted

^ The postal rates would be astronomical. :woot:

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Posted

^ The postal rates would be astronomical. :woot:

Still cheaper than sending a text message.

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Posted

postal rates would be astronomical...heh heh need to remember to use that one.

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