Meeting the neighbours is normally easier than this. After years of searching, astronomers have finally spotted an Earth-mass planet in Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own. Although the planet orbits too close to its parent star to host life, its discovery ups the chance of the system also hosting hospitable worlds.
Alpha Centauri looks like a single point of light from Earth, but it contains two bright stars that share a relatively close binary orbit, including one that looks a lot like our sun. This binary pair is in our cosmic backyard, about 4.3 light years away, spurring great interest in its ability to host planets.
If you’re hoping to visit the neighbours, though, you may want to pack a few books for the trip. Even with the current record holders for the world’s fastest spacecraft, the Helios sun probes, the journey to Alpha Centauri would take 19,000 years – and that’s assuming you travel at top speed for the whole journey, which is unlikely. Learn more here, here, here or here.