Blue Flower

In the search for habitable exoplanets, considerable attention is being focussed on our neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri. A new planet-hunting instrument called NEAR (Near Earths in the Alpha Cen Region) has been installed on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile, in the hope of finding a large habitable planet orbiting Alpha Cen A or B.

"NEAR is the first and (currently) only project that could directly image a habitable exoplanet," Breakthrough Watch lead scientist Olivier Guyon said in a statement. "It marks an important milestone."