Astronomers just found the closest super-Earth yet that might be able to support life

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Jun 26, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT (Updated)

The big bullseye for astronomers now is to find a planet in the habitable zone that could support life, and a team just spotted one a hop, skip and jump away (relatively speaking) from Earth. So, how long until we can get there?

Known as Gliese 832c, the planet is located just 16 light-years from Earth. Admittedly, that’s still about 94.4 trillion miles from Earth, but, hey -- the Milky Way galaxy is a clear 100,000 light-years across, so it's pretty darn close in the grand scheme of things.

So, yeah, we’re not even getting there by conventional means. But get a warp drive running and this is just a quick jaunt across town.

The “super-Earth,” which is about five times the size of our planet, is located in the Goldilocks zone orbiting the star Gilese 832, and it makes a full orbit about every 36 days. But the host star there is a red dwarf that’s a whole lot cooler and dimmer than our sun, so by being closer it actually puts this planet right in the sweet spot.

Despite the fact that the temperature might match up, the team notes the large mass of the planet could’ve led to a runaway greenhouse effect a la Venus — which would effectively render it inhabitable. So bring along some oxygen just in case we ever get to that neighborhood.

This find joins two other Earth-like planets scientists have spotted in recent years, and it actually marks the closest one yet (proximity-wise) to Earth. Researchers with the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo noted that its closeness should make it a prime candidate for further study.

Or, you know, exploration if we can ever make it out of our darn solar system.

(Via Space)