New Planet Is Closest Yet: Earth-Size Lava World a Space “Landmark”

New Planet Is Closest Yet: Earth-Size Lava World a Space “Landmark”

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Alpha Centauri—the star system closest to our sun and the inspiration for legions of science fiction writers—harbors at least one planet and probably more, astronomers announced. The planet orbits very close to Alpha Centauri B—the smaller of two paired stars—and likely has a lava-like consistency to show for it, scientists said. As such, the new world would be way too hot to support life as we know it. Life or no life, the discovery is a “landmark,” said Geneva Observatory astronomer Stéphane Udry, co-author of the study detailing the as yet unnamed planet in the journal Nature.

For one thing, the Alpha Centauri planet is the closest yet to our solar system. What’s more, the new world is the first known to have a mass similar to Earth’s and to orbit a star very much like our own, Udry said at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Nevada.

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