The astronomy twitter feeds are buzzing with news that an Earth sized planet has been discovered in orbit around Alpha Centauri B, one of the closest stars to the Sun. You can read more about this in the press release from ESO. To find such a planet in about the only place near enough for us to find it using current instrumentation is a huge boost for the possibilities of further earth-sized planets being out there.
But this isn’t a place you’ll want to visit for your holidays. It’s closer to its parent star than Mercury is to the Sun, so it’s going to be really toasty warm.
The discovery was made using the HARP instrument on the ESO 3.6m telescope, using observations that took place over a period of 4 years. It’s testament to what can be done with what today is a small telescope.
You can also read more about this spectacular result in the issue of Nature coming out on 17th October.
I’m going to be lecturing on planets and exoplanets next term. It’s really cool to see new results like this forcing me to update the lectures. What further new surprises are going to arrive before I have to give this course?