00:18 GMT +316 October 2019
Listen Live
    A vision of Proxima Centauri b

    Needle in a Haystack: Newly Discovered Earth-Like Planet 'Could be Habitable'

    © Flickr/ Kevin Gill
    Get short URL

    Scientists have spotted previously unknown Earth-like planet that may be the closest place for life outside the Solar System. The discovery was made by researchers at the European Southern Observatory. Sputnik spoke to astrophysicist Dr. Sandra Jeffers about this planet.

    “The newly discovered planet is 1.3 Earth masses, so it is just a little more heavy than our Earth. The celestial body, designated Proxima B, is orbiting Proxima Centauri which is the nearest known star to the Sun. The planet is located in the so-called Goldilocks zone of the star where it might be possible to locate liquid water,” according to Dr. Sandra Jeffers, member of the team that found the new planet.

    She further said that the planet is approximately 4.2 light years away or in kilometers it is 4, 000,000,000,000,000. “If you are driving an RV- RX6 car at 300 kilometers per hour, it will take you 17,000,000,000 years to get there!”

    Talking about why this discovery is such a big deal, the astrophysicist said that 25 years ago there were no known planets outside the solar system and now an Earth like planet orbiting the nearest star to the Sun has been discovered.

    Jeffers further spoke about how the European Southern Observatory managed to find this planet.

    “It is very much a needle in a haystack, as we are actually looking at an optical spectrum so when you look at light traveling through prism it separates into many different colors and each of these colors represent different wave-lengths and what we see is because planets and the stars are orbiting each other, there is a slight shift in the location of the star and in the lines of these spectra, so we are really absolutely looking for a very tiny needle in a haystack,” Jeffers told Sputnik.

    Astronomers have long been on an intensive search for planets around Proxima Centauri, but this is the first time they found one in the habitable zone.

    According to Jeffers, there are many more discoveries to come but what’s exciting about this star is that it is an “Earth like planet as it is rocky; it’s in the Goldilocks zone and it could be habitable, that’s why it’s particularly very exciting.”

    The astrophysicists mentioned that looking at the planet directly right now is beyond the capabilities of science but what the scientists want to find out is if the planet has an atmosphere and if it does there is a higher chance that it will be able to support life.

    Talking about why is it important to find a planet such as Proxima B, Jeffers said, “It is an idea that sparks curiosity in everybody’s mind as to if we are just alone in the universe or are there other planets orbiting other stars.”

    She further spoke about advance research and what comes next after this discovery has been made. Although it is still too early to send a probe or a spaceship to the planet, the astrophysicist said, “I don’t think we are talking about Star Trek yet, but there are entrepreneurs who are thinking of sending a space probe powered by laser light to Proxima Centauri in the long term future.”


    International Space Station's Orbit to Be Adjusted Wednesday
    How a Storm in Space Nearly Triggered the End of the World Down Here
    Russia Could Cut Down International Space Station Crew
    Big Mistake: Priceless Space Artifact Was Sold at US Government Auction
    Russian Scientists Developing 3D Bioprinter for Space Use
    interview, planet, space, technology, Proxima-B, Europe
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik