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New Planet in Neighborhood, Astronomically Speaking
The New York Times ^ | October 16, 2012 | Dennis Overbye

Posted on 10/18/2012 8:58:54 AM PDT by Celestron14

[This is cool! While the planet discovered is too hot for life, there probably are others and some might be in that orbit where water can be liquid and life can exist. So maybe with future ion drive ships, suspended animation, or whatever human colonies might be established there. Neat!]

Bringing the search for another Earth about as close as it will ever get, a team of European astronomers was scheduled to announce on Wednesday that it had found a planet the same mass as Earth’s in Alpha Centauri, a triple star system that is the Sun’s closest neighbor, only 4.4 light-years away.

The planet is the lightest one ever found orbiting another star and — in the words of its discoverer, Xavier Dumusque, a graduate student at the Geneva Observatory — “it will surely be the closest one ever.”

It is presumably a rocky ball like our own, but it is not habitable. It circles Alpha Centauri B, a reddish orb about half as luminous as the Sun, every three days at a distance of only about four million miles, resulting in hellish surface temperatures of 1,200 degrees.

So this is not “Earth 2.0.” Yet.

Astronomers said the discovery raised the possibility that there were habitable Earthlike planets right next door and that methods and instruments were now precise enough to detect them.

“Very small planets are not rare,” said Mr. Dumusque, who is the lead author of a paper being published on Wednesday in Nature...

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Astronomy; Science; Society
KEYWORDS: alphacentauri; alphacentaurib; planets; spacecolony; xplanets

1 posted on 10/18/2012 8:59:00 AM PDT by Celestron14
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Thanks Celestron14.
 
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2 posted on 10/18/2012 8:20:37 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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