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Earth-sized planet found just outside solar system
October 17, 2012
5:41 am
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Earth-sized planet found just outside solar system

By SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press – 4 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — European astronomers say that just outside our solar system they've found a planet that's the closest you can get to Earth in location and size.

It is the type of planet they've been searching for across the Milky Way galaxy and they found it circling a star right next door — 25 trillion miles away. But the Earth-like planet is so hot its surface may be like molten lava. Life cannot survive the 2,200 degree heat of the planet, so close to its star that it circles it every few days.

The astronomers who found it say it's likely there are other planets circling the same star, a little farther away where it may be cool enough for water and life. And those planets might fit the not-too-hot, not-too-cold description sometimes call the Goldilocks Zone.

That means that in the star system Alpha Centauri B, a just-right planet could be closer than astronomers had once imagined.

It's so close that from some southern places on Earth, you can see Alpha Centauri B in the night sky without a telescope. But it's still so far that a trip there using current technology would take tens of thousands of years.

But the wow factor of finding such a planet so close has some astronomers already talking about how to speed up a 25 trillion-mile rocket trip there. Scientists have already started pressuring NASA and the European Space Agency to come up with missions to send something out that way to get a look at least.

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