Astronomers have discovered a potentially rocky planet around a red dwarf star just 11 light-years away.
I spent countless nights as a child gazing up at the night sky and wondering what was out there. Did those stars harbor planets, and if so, were those planets anything like our Earth? Could there be other stargazers, looking up at an alien sky?
The exoplanet field, which has exploded in the last 20 years, is beginning to answer these questions. With thousands of planets identified around other stars, the field has moved beyond discovery to statistical understanding. We now know that small rocky planets like our Earth are common and that the most common type of star (M dwarfs) is one of the most likely hosts for planets. These statistics are evident in the recent discovery of Proxima b, a planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, but that’s not the only planet around a nearby star.