London, Oct 17: An earth-sized planet has been found orbiting Alpha Centauri, the star nearest to the earth at over four light years away, but which would still take us 40,000 years to reach with current technology.
The mystery world circling Alpha Centauri B is thought too be much hot to support life, with surface temperatures of around 1,500 dgrees Celsius.
But astronomers say it is likely to be part of a more extensive solar system containing other planets, one or more of which might be habitable.
At just 4.3 light years from the Sun, Alpha Centauri B is only a step away in astronomical terms; still, with current propulsion technology it would take a probe 40,000 years to get there.
Astronomers described the discovery as ‘extraordinary’ and did not rule out the possibility of sending an unmanned space mission there in the not-too-distant future, according to the Daily Mail.
Xavier Dumusque, of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, said: “This result represents a major step towards the detection of a twin Earth in the immediate vicinity of the Sun. We live in exciting times.”
The planet was detected by European Southern Observatory (ESO) astronomers who measured tiny wobbles in the motion of Alpha Centauri B caused by a gravitational tug of war with the orbiting planet.