Stephen Hawking & Yuri Milner are Planning a Flyby to the Earth-Like Exoplanet Proxima B
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking and Russian philanthropist Yuri Milner were among the first to initiate a mission towards Alpha Centauri with their Breakthrough Starshot. Their nanocraft is designed to reach the nearest star system and it looks like they made the right decision.
With the discovery of a new habitable planet orbiting the star, Proxima Centauri, they are changing their plan and are already planning to conduct a flyby to the Earth-like exoplanet called Proxima B.
Earlier this year, professor Hawking, accompanied by his colleagues announced Breakthrough Starshot aimed at reaching Alpha Centauri. Their nanocraft is designed to reach the region in a span of 20 years.
The recent discovery the European Space Observatory (ESO) confirmed that there is a reason why scientists would like to reach Alpha Centauri. ESO discovered that there is a clear evidence that a potentially habitable-planet orbits a star near Earth. That star is called Proxima Centauri, it can be found within Alpha Centauri, the target of Hawking's Breakthrough Starshot project. Alpha Centauri is also the nearest star system to Earth at only 4.37 light-years away.
Due to the latest discovery, Breakthrough Starshot team slightly changed its plan to include a possible flyby to the habitable planet.
"The discovery is likely to energize the project," Abraham Loeb, committee chair for Starshot, said in a statement. "It provides an obvious target for a flyby mission," Loeb added.
The Starshot nanocraft is designed with a camera that can take images of Proxima B. Loeb added that their spacecraft and the flyby might be able to confirm whether or not the newly discovered Earth-like planet has liquid water.
However, it is not easy to reach Alpha Centauri and for the data to be transmitted back to Earth. It'll take 20 years to for the spacecraft to reach the region and whatever data it can gather, including photographs, will reach Earth 4.23 later.