Near neighbours?

Reports here and here (summarised really well, as always, by Wired here) of intriguing results from some computer simulations, by a researcher at the University of California, of the formation of one of our closest stellar neighbours: Alpha Centauri B (the largest of the three stars in that system). Confirmation of the presence of a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B will require a couple of years of intensive observation.

rocky-planet-1.jpg

Earth-like planets orbiting our nearest celestial neighbour are a distinct possibility: simulations of the first 200 million years in the life of the primary star indicated, under all the tested initial conditions, the formation of rocky planets within a ‘Goldilocks’ zone (not too hot, not too cold) where liquid water might form and remain on a planet’s surface.

Persistent liquid water is a necessary condition for life. Which raises the interesting question: if the general conditions for life have been found on the very nearest stars, can we not assume that they are being met with regularity elsewhere?

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