Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they’ve detected a planet orbiting our closest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri.
The planet is in the star’s “Goldilocks zone,” where it may be neither too hot nor too cold — meaning that liquid water could exist at the surface, raising the possibility for life.
The planet, which has been temporarily named Proxima B by its discoverers, is 4.2 light-years, or 25 trillion miles, away from Earth.
"What's amazing is how close it is," says Jeff Coughlin, an astronomer working with NASA's Kepler planet-hunting mission, who wasn't involved in the discovery. “There’s nothing in physics that would keep us from sending a probe to Proxima B within the next few decades, even with just current day technology.”
"I think today marks the start of our ability to map out the local universe around us, identifying the stars and planets in the sky that could be visited and utilized by our species, hundreds or thousands of years from now. I think humans will look back to this time as the very beginning of something," says Coughlin.