Adam Korbitz writes "Back in March I posted about a team of researchers at the University of California-Santa Cruz who have proposed a computer model that predicts Alpha Centauri -- the star closest to our own Sun — may harbor at least one Earth-like terrestrial planet orbiting within the habitable zone of one of the system's component stars. Astronomers hope they may be able to detect such planets, if they exist, in the relatively near future using the well-established radial velocity method that measures the wobble caused by planets as they orbit their host stars.
The hunt for that Earth-like planet around Alpha Centauri B is now underway in Chile.
According to the NASA/JPL website Planet Quest:
At a little over four light years from Earth, the sunlike star Alpha Centauri B — actually a member of a three-star system — is our sun's closest neighbor and practically a stone's throw away in celestial terms.
[The] planet-hunting team is using a telescope in Chile to keep an eye on the star for the next three years, in order to collect enough data to determine whether or not the next Earthlike planet lies next door.
Such a planet would be too small to see, but its gravity will pull on its host star, making it rock back and forth in a way that the telescope can detect. With NASA funding, they're also working on simulations that may be able to predict how a solar system could have formed around our cosmic neighbor.
You can read the full Planet Quest article here.
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