It’s every creationist’s nightmare. PhysOrg reports: Earth-like planet around Proxima Centauri discovered. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
The hunt for exoplanets has been heating up in recent years. Since it began its mission in 2009, over four thousand exoplanet candidates have been discovered by the Kepler mission, several hundred of which have been confirmed to be “Earth-like” (i.e. terrestrial). And of these, some 216 planets have been shown to be both terrestrial and located within their parent star’s habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks zone”).
Yes, we know. The last time we wrote about this was a month ago 104 More Planets & One Amazing System. Back to PhysOrg:
But in what may prove to be the most exciting find to date, the German weekly Der Spiegel announced recently that astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, just 4.25 light-years away. Yes, in what is an apparent trifecta, this newly-discovered exoplanet is Earth-like, orbits within it’s sun’s habitable zone, and is within our reach. But is this too good to be true?
We knew about that earlier report, but we’ve been waiting for something more authoritative. NASA still isn’t reporting anything on this. Let’s read on to see what PhysOrg says:
For over a century, astronomers have known about Proxima Centauri and believed that it is likely to be part of a trinary star system (along with Alpha Centauri A and B). Located just 0.237 ± 0.011 light years from the binary pair, this low-mass red dwarf star is also 0.12 light years (~7590 AUs) closer to Earth, making it the closest star system to our own.
We know it’s close. PhysOrg continues:
Knowing that there is a habitable planet that a mission from Earth could reach within our own lifetimes is nothing short of amazing! But of course, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. Citing anonymous sources, the magazine [presumably Der Spiegel] stated:
[PhysOrg quotes the magazine:] “The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface —an important requirement for the emergence of life. Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by.” In addition, they claim that the discovery was made by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) using the La Silla Observatory’s reflecting telescope.
Exciting, yes, but still nothing official. Here’s more:
The article goes on to state that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will be announcing the finding at the end of August. But according to numerous sources, in response to a request for comment by AFP, ESO spokesman Richard Hook refused to confirm or deny the discovery of an exoplanet around Proxima Centauri. “We are not making any comment,” he is reported as saying.
So at the moment, we don’t know anything. Moving along:
What’s more, the folks at Project Starshot are certainly excited by the news. As part of Breakthrough Initiatives – a program founded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to search for intelligent life (with backing from Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg) – Starshot intends to send a laser-sail driven-nanocraft to Alpha Centauri in the coming years.
This craft, they claim, will be able to reach speeds of up to 20% the speed of light. At this speed, it will able to traverse the 4.37 light years that lie between Earth and Alpha Centauri in just 20 years. But with the possible discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which lies even closer, they may want to rethink that objective.
We’re sure they will change their objective — if this discovery is confirmed. One last excerpt:
Naturally, there is the desire (especially amongst exoplanet enthusiasts) to interpret the ESO’s refusal to comment either way as a sort of tacit confirmation. And knowing that industry professionals are excited it about it does lend an air of legitimacy. But of course, assuming anything at this point would be premature. If the statements made by the unnamed source, and quoted by Der Speigel, are to be taken at face value, then confirmation (or denial) will be coming shortly. In the meantime, we’ll all just need to be patient.
Okay, we’ll be patient. If this is real, the response from creationists should be hilarious.
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