Astronomers have sparked wild conspiracy theories after discovering a «second Earth» capable of supporting life.
Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) spotted an alien world orbiting Proxima Centauri — a red dwarf, a small low-mass star about 4.25 light-years from the Sun.
An anonymous source from the ESO told German publication Der Spiegel the discovery is the closest habitable planet to Earth, which means we could reach it within our lifetime
The astonishing finding has not been officially announced, sparking furious speculation that the second Earth has deliberately been kept a secret.
“The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface — an important requirement for the emergence of life,” the source said.
“Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by.”
Since its launch in 2009, NASA’s planet finding Kepler Spacecraft has discovered more than 4000 exoplanet candidates.
Of these, there have been 216 Earth-like located within the Goldilocks Zone — the region around a star in which the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might support water.
The problem is that while most of these Earth-like planets are habitable, they are located thousands of light years away, which means they are out of our reach.
Astronomers from the observatory had previously claimed to have found the then-closest exoplanet to Earth in 2012, although subsequent analysis cast doubt on its existence.
Despite this misstep, the unnamed source claim this latest discovery is authentic and the result of intensive work.
“Finding small celestial bodies is a lot of hard work,” the source said.
“We were moving at the technically feasible limit of measurement.”
If the findings are correct, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s search for intelligent life could focus on heading to the planet.
As part of Milner’s plans, Project Starshot intends to send a laser-sail driven-nanocraft to Alpha Centauri — the closest star system to the Solar System — in the coming years.