Earth Sized Planet Found In Nearest Star System | Out Of This World Weekly


That’s right, there is a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B.  The Alpha Centauri system includes three stars, Alpha Centauri A, B, and Proxima Centauri and are the closest stars to our own Sun at 4.3 light years.  This newly discovered planet is only 1.13 times the mass of Earth, which would make it extremely similar in size to Earth.  Alpha Centauri B is a bit smaller, cooler, and more orange than our own Sun but that isn’t going to help the newly discovered planet because it is orbiting very, very close to Alpha Centauri B.  So close, that a year on this newly discovered planet only takes 3.24 days.  That would mean that this planet is so hot at about 1200 degrees C that we could never survive on the surface, even for short periods of time.  We probably couldn’t even put a probe directly into orbit around this planet because it is so very close to it’s star.  Even though we can’t ever go into direct orbit, we may still be able to gather large amounts of data if we were able to reach Alpha Centaui.  Because of this, the newly discovered planet named Alpha Centauri Bb does hold much interest in the scientific community.

Even though this planet is the closest ever found, we can’t directly see it.  This planet was found due to the wobble it causes in it’s star as the planet orbits the star.  Since this is a small planet, the wobble it caused was extremely small – a mere half meter per second.  This is comparable to the speed of a mosey, saunter, or stroll.  That’s how good we have recently become at detecting planets around stars.  No doubt we will be testing out new telescope technology on this new planet.  Now we know that it is there, a goal has been set to directly image this planet with visual telescopes. 

This new planet possibly offers the a very important thing that we didn’t have – a reason to go to the Alpha Centauri System.  After all, why even bother to spend billions of dollars and decades of effort to go to Alpha Centauri if there isn’t even a planet there to study.  We have or are sending probes to all of the major and some of the minor planets in our own solar system.  Probes have even been sent to several asteroids and comets.  There are many small asteroids and moons we haven’t visited yet but a planet around another star is a much larger and ambitious goal.  These extremely hot planets are a scientific study goal that we don’t have in our own solar system, yet they seem to be fairly common in the universe. 
 
Planets have only recently been found around binary stars and it was thought that these binary star systems were too gravitationally unstable to have planets in their orbits.  Recently planets have even been found around a star system with 4 stars, 2 pair of binary stars that orbit each other.  As a large percentage of stars are binary, trinary or in even larger groups this means that there are far more planets in the universe than we had previously thought.  Current methods of looking for planets search for a planet orbiting a single star and since it is possible that planets could be orbiting both stars in a large oval or figure eight type arrangement, this allows for even more possibilities. 

Many writers and dreamers have envisioned planets around our nearest star and now they have been discovered.  So, let’s just launch a probe and wait until it gets there.  When will it get there?  The voyager probes are the fastest moving objects we’ve been able to make yet and they would take about 70,000 years if they were headed in the right direction.  If we could get a super advanced fusion drive which is currently under development, we might just knock that down to 40,000 years or possibly much less if we are able to use a gravity assist of a major planet.  This isn’t exactly the time frame that we are looking for but even if we were eventually able to reach 1% of the speed of light it would still take about 430 years.  Basically, no matter what we do we aren’t going to see this planet in our lifetimes but this may very well be the start of a journey that could last hundreds or thousands of years and be one of the greatest explorations that humanity has ever achieved. 

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