THE DEMOGRAPHIC FATE OF intelligent SPECIES: Earth-like planet discovered around Proxima Centauri, the Sun's nearest neighbor

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Earth-like planet discovered around Proxima Centauri, the Sun's nearest neighbor

So close, yet so far. 4.24 light years = 10,000s of years of current-tech travel 
The banalization of our place in the Cosmos continues with the latest discovery of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our Sun at 4.2 light years away. A short 500 years ago, Galileo went to jail for questioning Earth's place at the center of the whole universe. We have gone a long way since then. Since the first exoplanet found in 1992, we have discovered thousands more around stars far from the Sun. Yet we didn't know for sure, not until now, that even our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, also has a rocky planet of its own. It looks like rocky planets, a category to which Earth belongs, are dime-a-dozen in the universe.

Observations made with a telescope in Chile have indeed revealed a planet about as massive as Earth that orbits Proxima Centauri, which is a cosmic walk to the corner store at just 4.24 light-years away. And if conditions are right, the planet is in an orbit that’s warm enough for liquid water to survive on its surface.
The Alpha Centauri system, long a wonderland for science fiction authors, is often considered a destination for humanity’s first leap into interstellar space—as well as a potential haven for future civilizations fleeing the inevitable destruction of Earth as we know it.

“A habitable, rocky planet around Proxima would be the most natural location to where our civilization could aspire to move after the sun will die, five billion years from now,” says Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an adviser to the Breakthrough Starshot project.

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