This isn’t exactly new, but it’s been confirmed by recent observations with better equipment; our nearest stellar neighbors are good candidates to have Earth-like planets. Excerpt:
The three stars that make up Alpha Centauri aren’t exactly created equal, with some more hospitable to life than others. The two brightest stars in the system are a pair known as Alpha Cen A and Alpha Cen B (AB for short), which orbit each other so closely that Chandra is the only observatory precise enough to differentiate their X-rays. Farther out in the system is Alpha Cen C, known as Proxima, which is the closest non-Sun-like star to Earth. The AB pair are both remarkably similar to our Sun, with Alpha Cen A almost identical in size, brightness, and age, and Alpha Cen B only slightly smaller and dimmer.
In regard to X-ray radiation, Alpha Cen A actually provides a safer planetary environment than the Sun, emitting lower doses of X-rays to its habitable zone. Alpha Cen B creates an environment that’s only marginally worse than the Sun, releasing higher amounts of X-rays by only a factor of five.
“This is very good news for Alpha Cen AB in terms of the ability of possible life on any of their planets to survive radiation bouts from the stars,” Ayres said. “Chandra shows us that life should have a fighting chance on planets around either of these stars.”
Four light years away is, of course, just next door in astronomical terms, but several lifetimes away with current technology. And it would be the wildest of long shots to send a ship there without knowing if there are planets at all, much less habitable ones.
But who knows what we’ll be able to do a generation or two from now? My grandparents went from horses and buggies to seeing men – Americans – walking on the moon. My Dad went from the Model A Ford era to the Internet. Who knows what my grandchildren will live to see?
Today’s questions are answered by tomorrow’s technology. If we ever lose that urge to innovate, that’s the beginning of the end for humanity. I may not live to see it, but I sure do hope it’s the stars that pull us outward.