Munich, Germany — The Director General of the European Southern Observatory told the world Wednesday scientists had discovered an earth-like planet orbiting the sun’s closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri.
He said the planet has about the same mass as earth and is only 4.3 light years away. It was detected using what’s called a “harps instrument” on the 3.6 meter telescope in Chile.
The discovery could lead to finding more planets in the universe that could sustain life. Tim de Zeeuw, ESO’s Director General said, “The discovery really demonstrates that wherever we look, whatever star almost we look, there are planets. This one especially because it’s a rocky planet, like the Earth, and it is actually in the habitable zones, so water is fluid – which means that at least we know that there might be a process that generates life, as it did on our own Earth. And if that is prevalent throughout the Milky Way then of course the question comes, ‘is there maybe life somewhere else in the universe, on another planet?’ And it could well be the discovery of all time.”
The lead astronomer hopes that the discovery captures the world’s imagination. ESO Team Leader Guillem Anglada-Escude said, “We have this common knowledge at a level that I think, it can reach people, it’s kind of ready. And using this opportunity to explain to the people and the public – what it means to find a planet, what really…I mean it’s not something, somewhere we walk and it’s there, like it’s something a bit more special. The context is important.”
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