There’s an Earth-like planet right next door.

Howdy, neighbor! Nature sets our sights on the planet just like ours orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor:

Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun, has an Earth-sized planet orbiting it at the right distance for liquid water to exist. The discovery, reported today in Nature, fulfils a longstanding dream of science-fiction writers — a potentially habitable world that is close enough for humans to send their first interstellar spacecraft.

“The search for life starts now,” says Guillem Anglada-Escudé, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery.

Proxima’s planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star — much smaller and dimmer than the Sun — every 11.2 days. “If you tried to pick the type of planet you’d most want around the type of star you’d most want, it would be this,” says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. “It’s thrilling.”

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