Another Earth May Have Just Been Discovered Close to Ours

Another Earth May Have Just Been Discovered Close to Ours

The prospect of other life-sustaining planets has been explored by scientists (and filmmakers) throughout the years—but a new planet that was just found one star over is giving them new hope

The prospect of other life-sustaining planets has been explored by scientists (and filmmakers) throughout the years—but a new planet that was just found one star over is giving them new hope

Text: William Defebaugh

At the rate we are currently using up Earth's resources, many scientists and forward-thinkers have been speculating as to how many viable years this planet really has left—and what the conditions for future generations will be. It's an unfathomable dilemma, but one that may have just found some good news. 

The New York Times is reporting that a planet with conditions similar to our own may be circling a star close to us. The planet, Proxima Centauri, is in what astronomers refer to as the star's "Goldilocks zone," where the temperature is not too hot or cold—meaning there could be water. And where there is water, there may be life.

The discovery may feel like something out of a farfetched sci-fi film (Another Earth? Interstellar?), but the reality is anything but. Still, many questions may now be circling your head. Could there already be life there? Does that mean aliens exist? Most importantly, have we found a potential solution to our sustainability crisis? The answer is possibly (at least for that last question). Multiple "Earth-like" planets have been discovered in the universe, but this one is in a solar system that's right next to ours, only 4.2 light years away. And while that figure may seem unimaginably far to us, on a cosmic scale, it's apparently not.

“We know there are terrestrial planets around many stars, and we kind of expected the nearby stars would contain terrestrial planets,"Guillem Anglada-Escudé, an astronomer on the team who made the discovery, told The Times. "This is not exciting because of this. The excitement is because it is the nearest one.”

There are not yet images of the planet; instead, the team discovered Proxima b by indirectly detecting disturbances (or "wobbles") in the area around the sun-like star, indicating the presence of the well-positioned planet. They cannot determine exactly how massive the planet it is, but they are estimating it to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth (meaning that a year on the planet may be significantly less time than an Earth year—as low as roughly 11 days).

The next step for the team would be to send a probe to the planet, where it could hopefully ascertain more information about its habitat. Stay tuned for more news on the subject.

Credits: Cover image: still from 2011's Another Earth.

UP NEXT

Watch Dev Hynes Pay Tribute To Hande Kader, Philando Castile on 'Conan'