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PARIS (AFP) – Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.
Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water – a key ingredient for life.
The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. “We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.
“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he told AFP. An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.