On Wednesday, August 24, scientists announced the discovery of Proxima b — an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri.

Pale Red Dot — “an outreach project to show to the public how scientists are working to address a major question that could affect us all, namely are there Earth-like planets around the nearest stars? — made the discovery using the Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) and the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) telescope-mounted instruments. Data from these tools at the European Southern Observatory in Chile provided scientists with the evidence that led to the discovery.

According to Space.com, Proxima b is approximately 1.3 times more massive than Earth, suggesting to researchers that this alien world is a rocky planet. The planet’s discovery is exciting to astrobiologists because Proxima b is in the middle of the habitable zone — the ideal distance from its star for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface. Although the planet orbits tightly around its star, Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, which is considerably cooler than our sun.

Proxima Centauri Habitable Zone

(Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/G. Coleman)

This isn’t the first Earth-like exoplanet discovered, but it is the closest. Researchers estimate that Proxima b is mere 4.2 light-years from our solar system.

The research that led to Proxima b’s discovery is published in the journal Nature.

About the Author

Jason McClellan is an author, podcaster, TV personality, veteran UFO researcher & journalist, bourbon enthusiast, ska and punk devotee, vegan, and animal lover. You might have seen him on NatGeo, Syfy, History, or at conferences talking about UFOs.

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