“I think they all have planets,” Fischer says. “The mounting evidence we have is basically that if we can find planets around a star—if our technology is good enough to see them—then we do. It really looks like planets are manufactured very efficiently around stars.”
There’s one last reason, of course, to tote up a list of nearby stars, and to find out if they have habitable planets. If we ever learn how to travel the immense distances of interstellar space, we’ll want to visit the closest solar systems first.
Sadly, though, Fritz Benedict already appears to have ruled out the first stop in this cosmic voyage. After years of observing, Benedict found no evidence of planets around Proxima Centauri, the closest member of the Alpha Centauri triad. It was perhaps no surprise, given that the star doesn’t seem to be rich in the heavy metals that help planets glom together. Still, it’s disappointing. But as Todd Henry will happily tell you, there are plenty of other stars in the sky. And they may be closer than you think.