Looks Like Earth Has a New(ly Discovered) Neighbor

An image of foreign planets in outer space.

Image: Shutterstock

Eventually, humanity’s lease will be up so to speak, and we’ll have to move out of our current neighborhood when our sun destroys Earth. That’s not going to be for a few billion years though, so we have time to look for a new place. Luckily, Proxima Centauri, which is our closest neighboring star, has a rocky, Earth-like planet orbiting it within the “Goldilocks zone,” meaning it’s at the right range to have liquid water and, subsequently, might be able to support life. We wouldn’t even have to move that far.

The planet, called Proxima-b, was hinted at a few years ago, but wasn’t verified until recently. Now, when astronomers say it’s close, they mean in a cosmic sense, as it’s about 4.25 light years away, which is, well, really far away. It would take a very long time to get there. In fact, a tiny vessel propelled by a light sail, if it were able to hit 20% of light speed, would still take 20 years to get there.

But, that kind of vessel is exactly what some scientists have in mind, and if they can figure out how to make it work, they might be able to send it to Proxima-b within the next generation or so. We could bet getting images from that planet by 2080 or so, and then we’d be able to tell for sure if there was water, an atmosphere, even life. Maybe there is even sentient life with civilizations and everything.

Proxima Centauri is a lot cooler than our sun, it’s a red dwarf, and as such it has a lifespan in the trillions of years, so we could go there and live there for quite some time after our own sun dies out. It’s going to be an expensive move though.

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