Scientists are set to reveal later today the discovery of a planet which could act as a ‘second Earth’ for mankind as we know it.
This extraordinary discovery, made by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), is believed to have the ideal conditions to support life and is incredibly similar to our own planet.
The ESO is expected to make the announcement at 6pm today, The Mirror reports.
A spokesman for the organisation refused to deny this announcement, saying: “We are not making any comment.”
The planet is 4.2 light years away from our solar system and orbits the star Proxima Centauri.
A unnamed source told Der Spiegel:
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.
It’s expected that a press conference by the observatory later today will reveal more about Earth #2, with many hoping that it could be inhabited by extra-terrestrial lifeforms.
If these findings are indeed correct, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s search for potential life, alongside Mark Zuckerberg and Stephen Hawking, could be re-focused on visiting Proxima Centauri.
As part of Milner’s plans, Project Starshot will essentially involve sending tiny rockets into space to study the far universe, allowing people to photograph the other planets that are most likely to contain life.
He was hoping to explore Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to the Solar System, in the coming years.
The spacecraft is able to travel up to 20 per cent of the speed of light, so theoretically if they had a bit of a re-think, they would be able to reach the Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri in less than 20 years.
However, Professor Phillip Lubin, who’s working on Project Starshot, said the focus will likely stay on Alpha Centauri.
Speaking to Universe Today, he said:
The discovery of possible planet around Proxima Centauri is very exciting. It makes the case of visiting nearby stellar systems even more compelling, though we know there are many exoplanets around other nearby stars and it is very likely that the Alpha Centauri system will also have planets.
Who knows, in a few years time we could be looking back at this as the day that we finally found out that we’re not alone in the universe.