Earth-mass planet discovered in nearby Alpha Centauri star system

Artist’s concepton of the planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B. Credit: ESO / L. Calçada / N. Risinger

This has been a good week for exoplanets – first the reported discovery of a world with four suns, and now something that many people had been hoping for, a planet in the closest star system to Earth, Alpha Centauri!

Being the nearest star system to the Sun, only 4.3 light-years away, astronomers have long wondered whether it also has planets like in our own solar system. Previous searches hadn’t turned up any evidence yet, which was disappointing even though exoplanets orbiting stars farther out are now being found by the thousands.

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