A Habitable Planet Might Be Orbiting Our Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri

Whispers of a potentially habitable planet orbiting our nearest star have been reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Scientists with the European Southern Observatory have discovered evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, one of three stars in our neighboring star system called Alpha Centauri, according to another Der Spiegel report.

Illustration of an exoplanetNASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

According to Der Spiegel's anonymous source, the potential planet looks like it might be in the habitable zone. That means the planet might be close enough to Proxima Centauri, and therefore warm enough, for liquid water to exist on its surface.

ESO spokesperson Richard Hook would not confirm or deny if ESO has discovered a planet. "We are not making any comment," he told Agence France-Presse.

The discovery would be particularly exciting because Proxima Centauri is just 4.22 light-years away from us. Stephen Hawking and billionaire Yuri Milner have even launched a research program to figure out a way to send a probe to Alpha Centauri.

If there's a habitable planet there, we actually might be able to explore it some day relatively soon.

However, some scientists have warned we shouldn't get too excited.

Der Spiegel reported ESO plans to publish something about the potential planet at the end of August — so stay tuned.