Swiss astronomers announced on Tuesday the discovery of a new planet in the Alpha Centauri system. The “lava world,” which orbits the star Alpha Centauri B, is the closest to Earth yet found. Though its temperature is likely too extreme to support life, the yet-unnamed planet orbits a star much like our own sun and has a mass roughly the same as Earth. Geneva Observatory astronomer Stéphane Udry called the new planet a “landmark” discovery. The Swiss team who discovered it also found the first extrasolar planet in 1995. Though the Alpha Centauri system contains known habitable zones, where temperatures are friendly to life, a trip there would still take our current robotic spacecraft roughly 40,000 years to complete.
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