Science | August 19, 2016 5:00 am

Did We Just Find a Planet That We Can Colonize?

Hubble Telescope's Newest Shot of Proxima Centauri, our Nearest Neighbor (ESA/Hubble & NASA)
Hubble Telescope’s Newest Shot of Proxima Centauri, our Nearest Neighbor (ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Since the first confirmation of exoplanets–planets outside of our solar system–in 1995, astronomers have dreamed of finding a planet capable of sustaining life. The Kepler Mission, launched in 2009, put that dream into hyperdrive, discovering thousands of exoplanets. As of August this year, 3,943 exoplanets have been confirmed by astronomers. Of these, scientists believe several hundred are capable of sustaining life. Naturally, the ultimate goal for one of these planets would be colonization. If recent European Southern Observatory reports are verified, the seemingly far-fetched idea could become a reality surprisingly soon.

Astronomers may have located a planet that’s both habitable and close enough for humans to reach, according to reports from Der Spiegel. In what could be the most significant astronomical finding to date, the Earth-like planet, described as “Earth Proxima,” was discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri, a star that forms the closest solar system to our own. If initial reports are confirmed, the planet could be a candidate for colonization. Der Spiegel cites an anonymous source from the European Southern Observatory, which discovered the solar system in 2002, saying:

“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. Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by.”

ESO has yet to confirm the reports, but many astronomers are taking the observatory’s “no comment” as tacit confirmation. Learn more about the recent finding here. Below, is a short documentary telling the journey astronomers have taken to find Earth Proxima.