Proxima B
It's official. Scientists have found the closest one yet. Only four light-years away, circling a star named Proxima Centauri, lives a chilly Earth-like planet called Proxima B.

Cornell astronomer, Lisa Kaltenegger, described the find to the Washington Post  as "inspiring". Proxima Centauri is a dim red dwarf, but scientists have suspected for years that a planet could be orbiting the star. Based on Proxima B's distance from Proxima Centauri, it's believed that the planet could have everything required to hold liquid water and, thus, life.

Astronomers don't yet know enough to unequivocally confirm that Proxima B can hold life, but people have already began speculating on ways we could travel to the planet.

Travelling at 20% the speed of light, it would take humans 20 years to reach Proxima B. Compared to other Earth-like planets discovered in recent months, that's the shortest amount of time. Back in April, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawkings unveiled Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million initiative to send small, unmanned crafts to nearby planets. Scientists like Milner and Hawkings hope to unveil a new kind of light-powered probe that could travel at 20% the speed of light within years, and since the discovery of an even closer Earth-like planet, the workloads of such probes could be greatly reduced.

A probe that can travel at 20% the speed of light would be 1000 times faster than any current technology, so it would be fair to call Yuri and Hawkings ambitious. Nonetheless, astronomers, scientists and space buffs are excited and enthusiastic not just about the idea of visiting an Earth-like planet, but about the new technological advancements that could come with Breakthrough Starshot.
   September 2016 | Commodus

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