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A Planet Lurks Around The Star Next Door

By wochit 15 December 2016

HEY NEIGHBOR Proxima b, depicted with its star in this illustration, is at least 1.3 times as massive as Earth — but that is just a minimum estimate. Worlds in the Alpha Centauri system — the trio of stars closest to our sun — have been a staple of science fiction for decades. From Star Trek to Avatar, writers have dreamed up exotic landscapes (and inhabitants) for interstellar explorers to encounter. Now a planet around one of those stars is no longer fiction. In August, breathless headlines heralded the discovery of a small, potentially habitable planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a dim red dwarf star just 4.24 light-years away (SN: 9/17/16, p.