With the recent announcement that their may be a habitable planet just 12 light-years away from Earth, the question keeps getting asked – just how far are the closest solar systems to our own planet? This graphic created by Space.com shows that – the closest stars and their accompanying solar systems – giving us a better perspective of what’s out there in the neighborhood for us to explore.
If the planet, circling the star Tau Ceti, is in fact there and is in the habitable temperature range from the star; then the task becomes one of reaching it. If we suppose the ability to travel at 1/5th the speed of light (134.2 million miles an hour or about 5400 times faster than the fastest manned vehicle, Apollo 10) it would still take us 60 years to reach the distant planet. Once there we’d need to create food for ourselves (maybe using China’s planned techniques for growing food on Mars) and create permanent habitation. It’s currently a long shot, but with the a global effort, it could be possible sooner than we think.