Scientists believe they have found an exoplanet relatively close to our own that could possibly one day serve as an alternative home for human beings.
The planet, which astronomers have called ‘Proxima d’, was found orbiting the Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbouring star to our Sun.
While the news is exciting, the fact that the planet is over four light-years away means that it would take humans at least 800 years to travel there with the most advanced technology available today.
However, should future humans one day conquer the art of travelling at the speed of light through outer space, Proxima d could be within our reach.
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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced the discovery earlier this year, with Proxima d becoming the third planet to be found in the Proxima Centauri solar system.
In an ESOpress release, João Faria, a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço in Portugal said: “The discovery shows that our closest stellar neighbor seems to be packed with interesting new worlds, within reach of further study and future exploration.”
The exoplanet, which is around a quarter of the size of Earth and completes a full orbit around its star in just five days, is believed to be in the habitable zone of its given solar system.
Despite being just 2.48 million miles away from the Proxima Centauri star, or in other words more than 10 times less than the distance between the Sun and Mercury, conditions are hospitable enough for the planet to potentially maintain liquid water on its surface and even life itself.
Proxima d was first spotted by Faria and his team in 2020 while they observed the skies using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.
Follow-up checks on the Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) later confirmed the discovery of the planet.
Faria said: “After obtaining new observations, we were able to confirm this signal as a new planet candidate.”
The astronomer added: “I was excited by the challenge of detecting such a small signal and, by doing so, discovering an exoplanet so close to Earth.”
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