Finding planets that are similar to Earth is a task that scientists and researchers have been working on for a while now, but it seems like they're making great strides in their findings. Astronomers have reported that the nearest Earth-like planet is possibly just 13 light-years away (77 trillion miles).
However, said planet hasn't been located yet, but based on the team's extensive study of red dwarf stars, they believe it's there. According to their research, 60% of the galaxy's most ubiquitous stars most likely host planets that are smaller than Neptune, and about 6% of them host Earth-sized planets that are orbiting in the "Goldilocks" zone, where life is may be possible.
While 13 light-years may seem ridiculous, astronomers say that this nearest Earth-like planet is just right next door, based on the overall size of the universe. According to lead author and Harvard University grad student Courtney Dressing, if the Milky Way galaxy was shrunk to the size of the US, the distance between Earth and the closest Earth-like planet would be the span of Central Park in New York City.
However, while these planets may be "Earth-like," they're possibly quite different than Earth because of the differences between their red dwarf stars and our sun. Plus, these planets could be far older than our solar system, meaning that any potential life forms on these planets could be much more evolved than on Earth. Our solar system is around 4.5 billion years old, while the nearest Earth-like planet is possibly 12 billion years old.
Scientists and astronomers say that the closest planet is just within reach, and future spacecrafts may be able to locate these planets and provide some vital information that would advance what we know about life on other planets. These latest findings are based on data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, which launched in 2009.
[via ABC News]