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Potentially habitable planet found around nearest star: study

Updated: 2016-08-25 09:50

LONDON - Researchers have found a planet orbiting the closest star to the Solar System, and it may be the closest possible home for life outside the Solar System, according to a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Using facilities operated by the European Southern Observatory and other telescopes, the international team discovered the planet, called Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System.

This planet is about 1.3 times that of the Earth and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface, according to the study.

"We hope these findings inspire future generations to keep looking beyond the stars," said Lead author Dr Guillem Anglada-Escude from Queen Mary University of London."The search for life on Proxima b comes next."

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star that is four-light years from the Solar System. Proxima b lies well within the habitable zone around the star, according to the study.

Despite the temperate orbit of Proxima b, the conditions on the surface may be strongly affected by the ultraviolet and X-ray flares from the star, which would be far more intense than those the Earth experiences from the Sun, said the researchers.

"If further research concludes that the conditions of its atmosphere are suitable to support life, this is arguably one of the most important scientific discoveries we will ever make,"said another author Dr John Barnes from The Open University.

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