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Is It a Planet? Astronomers Spy Promising Potential World Around Alpha Centauri

For the first time ever, astronomers may have glimpsed light from a world in a life-friendly orbit around another star. The planet candidate remains unverified and formally unnamed, little more than a small clump of pixels on a computer screen, a potential signal surfacing from a sea of background noise. If proved genuine, the newly reported find would in most respects not be particularly remarkable: a “warm Neptune” estimated to be five to seven times larger than Earth, the sort of world that galactic census-takers such as NASA’s Kepler and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite missions have revealed to be common throughout the Milky Way. But even though it would be shrouded in gas and essentially bereft of any surface to stand on, its distance from its star would place it in the so-called “habitable zone” where liquid water could exist.

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