The biggest exoplanet discovery since 51 Peg

Back in 1995 Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the discovery of the first ‘real’ exoplanet – a planet orbiting a normal star. This announcement changed everything. The Sun was no longer unique in hosting planets. Since that time we have learnt that exoplanet are everywhere. However, a frequent complaint is that these planets are far away and knowing there is a habitable planet will do us no good. Yesterday all that changed. After years of searching a planet has finally been found in the Alpha Centauri system (it actually orbits the smaller star Alpha Cen B). Awkwardly designated Alpha Cen Bb, this planet is around 4 light years away – meaning that in a few generations we could actually go there!!

Now would we want to go there? Probably not. The planet is likely a hot ball of molten rock. But… one things results from Kepler have taught us is that if you have one planet you probably have many. Exciting times indeed!

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