Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada
Astronomers have discovered an exoplanet that not only orbits the habitable zone of it’s parent star, but is also only 4.25 light years away. Need a refresher crash course? Here we go:
A light year is how long is takes light in the form of photon particles to travel in one of our Earthly calendar years, which is about 6 TRILLION miles. So if an object is 1 light year away, we see it’s image as it was a year ago, not how we see it in real time. This may not seem like a lot, but under normal, non-hyper velocity speeds, it can potentially take hundreds or maybe even thousands of years to travel such great distances, at least until scientists can create new types of propulsion that can make traveling such distances much much easier.
This planet, being in within its star’s habitable zone means that it is neither too far nor too close to the star for there to be an atmosphere AND for the to potentially be liquid water, which is essential for life, at least, for us on Earth. The ramifications for such a discovery are potentially massive, because it is so so sooooooo close to us, that we could potentially visit it within the 21st century. And more importantly, if it is hospitable to life, such as our own planet, then perhaps it could be a new home for our civilization. Let’s just hope we don’t become desperate to go there because we’ve ruined our own world first…
Also, here’s a handy-dandy list of all planets, and especially Earth-like planets that have been discovered so far by the amazing Kepler telescope which is currently in orbit: