Largely because of the mission of the Kepler Space Telescope, scientists have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Some of these planets have been judged to be Earth-like in that they are the approximate size and mass of Earth and orbit their home stars in the so-called “habitable zone” where the temperature is just warm enough to maintain liquid water, necessary for life. According to Universe Today. Scientists are on the verge of announcing the latest of these planets, which is orbiting Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf and part of a triple star system that includes Alpha Centauri A and B, and is 4.25 light years away from Earth.

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Rumor has it that the new exoplanet may have been discovered, not by the Kepler, but rather by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) using the La Silla Observatory‘s reflecting telescope. The ESO is said to be prepared to make the announcement by the end of August, though a spokesperson for the observatory has refused to confirm or deny it.

The exciting aspect of this discovery, if it pans out, is that the Earth-like exoplanet is in theory in reach of Earth using technology that either exists or can be developed in the next few years.

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The findings could provide an extra impetus to an effort by a group of businesspeople and scientists to send a swarm of nanostar ships, propelled by lasers on Earth to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour, which could reach the star system in 20 years. Such a mission would take images and readings of the Alpha Centauri triple star system, including the Earth-like world that may have been discovered, and beam back the findings across the interstellar gulf 4.25 or so years later.

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Of course, it will take time to confirm the discovery, using other telescopes, including the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope due to be launched in 2018. Similar announcements have not panned out upon further study. Even if the exoplanet exists it may not contain life of any sort. However, the implications of another Earth so close to our home are profound. 

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