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Earth's new neighbor looks familiar

Planet discovered in Alpha Centauri, just a few light-years away

7:48pm, December 13, 2012


For exoplanets, size does matter. That’s why an Earth-sized planet just 4.4 light-years away proved to be one of the most exciting astronomical discoveries of 2012. The planet (artist’s depiction shown) circles a sunlike star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest stellar system to Earth and a favored target for future interstellar expeditions.

Finding a rocky planet in the Alpha Centauri system settled a decades-long debate about whether the system’s three stars hosted planets. The region appeared deserted until the most powerful planet-finding instrument on Earth — the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher — took a four-year-long look. Now scientists are eager to confirm the finding (

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