While we think of stars as being very distant, there is one star system that is relatively close - Alpha Centauri, just 4.3 light-years away. In 2012, astronomers discovered a planet in that system; it orbited way too close to its parent star to be considered habitable, but it got a lot of attention because the exoplanet was so close to Earth.
Although the existence of Alpha Centauri Bb has been recently put into doubt, astronomers are still looking toward the neighboring star system in the hope of finding some hidden exoplanetary treasures.
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Now, three years after the initial "discovery" of Alpha Centauri Bb, a research team led by Eduardo Bendek, a researcher with the astrophysics branch of NASA, hopes to get a better look at the star system to find habitable, Earth-size planets. Their plan is to launch a telescope that would look at Alpha Centauri for several months in hopes of seeing a small planet pass across the face of its parent star.
"The aim of my research is to develop the technology and a mission concept that will allow us to take the first direct image of an earth like planet around our closest star system, Alpha Centauri," wrote Bendek in an e-mail to Discovery News.