An uninhabitable Earth-sized planet orbiting a star similar to our Sun has been detected by astronomers.
• Techniques used to find planet give hope of reaching planets that may harbour life
• Planet thought to be too hot to support life
The mysterious rocky world is too close to its star Alpha Centauri B to have liquid water - ruling out the possibility of it being an Earth twin.
It is thought to be much to hot to support life, with surface temperatures of around 1,500C.
But the observational techniques used are capable of reaching the precision needed to search for planets that may harbour life.
It is even possible Alpha Centauri B has companion planets in the habitable zone.
The discovery relied on high-precision measurements taken from Alpha Centauri B which is just four light years from our own Solar System, making it an interesting target for such searches.
Detecting ‘exoplanets’ - the technical term for planets outside the solar system - with the same mass as Earth increases the chances of finding life-bearing worlds.
There are currently more than 750 exoplanets that have been identified by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and over 2,300 candidates awaiting confirmation.
Xavier Dumusque, of the University of Geneva, said: “One of the major challenges in the search for exoplanets is the detection of an Earth twin, that is, an Earth-mass planet orbiting in the star’s habitable zone.
“This planet, with a minimum mass similar to that of Earth, is both the lightest orbiting a solar-type star and the closest to the Solar System found to date.”
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