New Earth-like planet found orbiting nearby star

Astronomers made the discovery, reported in the journal Nature, after studying Proxima Centauri using a special instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at La Silla in Chile's Atacama desert.

The planet was found orbiting in the star's "Goldilocks Zone" - a habitable area where temperatures aren't so cold that water freezes, like Mars, but isn't so hot that water evaporates, like Venus.

"We hit the jackpot here", said Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astrophysicist at the Queen Mary University of London and lead author of a study on the discovery.

A new planet discovered orbiting the closest star to Earth's solar system could have the conditions to harbour life, according to a team of worldwide scientists.

Data collected indicates that the planet orbiting its star has a mass of at least 1.3 times that of Earth and orbits about 7 million kilometers from Proxima Centauri, about 5% of the distance Earth orbits from the Sun.

Space.com reports the planet lies within the "habitable zone" around Proxima Centauri, which refers to the range of distances at which liquid water could be found on the surface.

The planet, dubbed for now Promixa B, was discovered by an worldwide team led by astronomer Guillem Anglada-Escudé at Queen Mary University of London.

Researchers have discovered a new, rocky planet and believed to have possibilities of life outside our solar system.

The planet has been named Proxima b and no pictures exist as of yet. According to Gizmodo, a $100 million venture called the Starshot Initiative is doing research and engineering on "nanocrafts" that can travel up to 20 percent the speed of light and could reach the Promixa Centauri system in 20 years. I mean it's not something, somewhere we walk and it's there, like it's something a bit more special.

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star that is four-light years from the Solar System.

Though Proxima b orbits in just 11 days, its temperature is relatively moderate thanks to the modest size of its host star. That star, though invisible to the naked eye, is only 4.2 light-years from Earth, making it our nearest stellar neighbor.

Researchers say the the planet is regularly bathed in powerful ultraviolet radiation and X-rays from flares erupting from its parent star.

Too large and it would most likely have a thick, dense atmosphere, like a Neptune or a Jupiter, and we find it harder to envisage life like that we find on our Earth on such gaseous planets.

  • Julie Sanders