Stephen Hawking wants to explore the star system where scientists just found an Earth-like planet

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Discovery of Earth-Like Planet Excites Scientific Community

The discovery of Proxima b, the closest-possible Earth-like planet outside of our own solar system, has the scientific community hot and bothered.

Perhaps no one should be more thrilled than Stephen Hawking. The famed astrophysicist has been one of the leading figures in the search for extraterrestrial life, launching a project named Breakthrough Starshot with hundreds of millions in funding.

The $100 million initiative, funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, announced in April that it planned to send a nanocraft probe that weighs just a few grams to Alpha Centauri, which just happens to be the star system that houses Proxima b. While it hadn't announced exactly where the probe was going, we're willing to bet Proxima b will be toward the top of the list after Wednesday's announcement.

See photos of the newly-found exoplanet

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A view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System, is seen in an undated artist's impression released by the European Southern Observatory August 24, 2016. ESO/M. Kornmesser/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
The planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System, is seen in an undated artist's impression released by the European Southern Observatory August 24, 2016. ESO/M. Kornmesser/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A view of the southern skies over the European Southern Observatory (ESO) 3.6-metre (11.8 foot) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile with images of the stars Proxima Centauri (lower-right) and the double star Alpha Centauri AB (lower-left) from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as seen in an undated image released by the European Southern Observatory August 24, 2016. Y. Beletsky/LCO/ESO/ESA/NASA/M. Zamani/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
GERMANY - JUNE 22: Illustration taken from 'Uranometria' (1603) by Johann Bayer, showing consellations of Centaurus. Alpha Centauri is the star positioned on the front hoof of the centaur. German astronomer and lawyer Johann Bayer (1572-1625) invented the system for naming stars using letters from the Greek alphabet, a system still used today for the brighter stars - those visible to the human eye without the aid of a telescope. 'Uranometria' depicts the positions of nearly 1000 stars in addition to those identified by Tycho Brahe. Alpha Centauri is a double star and the second closest star to our own Sun, 4.35 light years away (only Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star in the same system is closer). It is a very similar star to the Sun, leading to speculation that it could have planets harbouring life. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
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The tiny spacecraft will be far too small to transport humans to the new planet, but it is humanity's best shot at getting a close up look at the exoplanet during a human lifetime. Conventional spacecraft would take anywhere from 20,000 to 160,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri some four lightyears away. But Breakthrough Starshot aims to make the journey in 20 years by using lasers to propel the nanocraft at 20 percent of the speed of light.

The team behind the nanocraft technology published another key breakthrough the same day Proxima b dominated headlines. Researchers at Harvard University working on the project noted in their paper that they think they've discovered a way to avoid the potentially catastrophic damage the nanocraft could suffer if it encounters gas and dust on its trek.

Learn more about the new planet:
'Earth-like' planet found just outside solar system

After the probe reaches its destination, it will scan for habitable conditions and even signs of life, but that may not be likely. According to reports, the planet reportedly receives about 100 times more radiation than Earth, which makes the odds of microbes surviving in the atmosphere unlikely.

RELATED: See Stephen Hawking through his life

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LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09: Professor Stephen Hawking attends the UK Premiere of 'The Theory Of Everything' at Odeon Leicester Square on December 9, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
In this Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 file photo, Professor Stephen Hawking, right, and cast member Eddie Redmayne arrive on the blue carpet for the UK premiere of "The Theory of Everything" at the Odeon in Leicester Square, central London. In its 87th year, acting front runners for the Academy Awards are Redmayne, for his portrayal of the ALS-afflicted Hawking in 'The Theory of Everything,'€ and Julianne Moore, a five-time nominee who is long overdue for a golden statuette, for her depiction of a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer's in 'Still Alice.' The Oscars are presented on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP, File)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: The world's best know scientist Professor Stephen Hawking takes VisitLondon.com's Official Guest of Honour Adaeze Uyanwah on a personal guided tour of his favourite places in the city's famous Science Museum on February 18, 2015 in London, England. On the tour Professor Hawking said he was pleased to lend his synthesised 'voice' to actor Eddie Redmayne for his Oscar-nominated performance in The Theory of Everything but added ' unfortunatley Eddie did not inherit my good looks.' (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for London & Partners)
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking poses for a picture ahead of a gala screening of the documentary film 'Hawking', a film about his life, at the opening night of the Cambridge Film Festival in Cambridge, eastern England on September 19, 2013. Hawking tells the extraordinary tale of how he overcame severe disability to become the most famous living scientist in a new documentary film premiered in Britain. (Photo credit: ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images)
British physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking speaks during the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics in London, Wednesday Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
British physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking speaks during the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics in London, Wednesday Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking appears in Seattle, Saturday, June 16, 2012. Hawking was taking part in the Seattle Science Festival Luminaries Series. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking appears in Seattle, Saturday, June 16, 2012. Hawking was taking part in the Seattle Science Festival Luminaries Series. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking appears in Seattle, Saturday, June 16, 2012. Hawking was taking part in the Seattle Science Festival Luminaries Series. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
An aide helps guide British physicist Stephen Hawking off the stage at the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala performance at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
British physicist Stephen Hawking attends the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala performance at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
An aide helps guide British physicist Stephen Hawking off the stage at the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala performance at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
In this April 5, 2010 file photo, Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, of England, presents a lecture titled, "Out of a Black Hole" at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Hawking says it is too risky to try to talk to space aliens. Oops. Too late. NASA and others have already beamed several messages into deep space, trying to phone ET. NASA _ which two years ago, broadcast the Beatles song "Across the Universe" across the galaxy _on Wednesday discussed its latest search strategy for life outside of Earth. It is more aimed at looking for simple life like bacteria in our solar system than fretting about potential alien overlords coming here. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel, File)
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, left, gets a kiss from Beverly Guster, right, prior to the dedication of an auditorium named after him at the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy on the Texas A&M campus Monday April 5, 2010 in College Station. Guster is a staff member of the Institute. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking left, receives applause from the crowd after commenting during the dedication of an auditorium named after him at the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy on the Texas A&M campus Monday April 5, 2010 in College Station. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)
In this handout photo provided by Zero Gravity Corp., astrophysicist Stephen Hawking floats on a zero-gravity jet, in this April 26, 2007, file photo. The modified jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others first flew up to 24,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Nurses lifted Hawking and carried him to the front of the jet, where they placed him on his back atop a special foam pillow. The plane made a total of eight parabolic dips, including two during which Hawking made two weightless flips like "a gold-medal gymnast," said Peter Diamandis, chairman of Zero Gravity Corp., the company that owns the jet. (AP Photo/Zero Gravity Corp./FILE) 
Stephen Hawking smiles during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center landing strip in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on April 26, 2007. Hawking, author of the million-selling "A Brief History of Time," is writing a "middle-grade" novel. "George's Secret Key to the Universe," the story of a young man's computer-driven adventures, will be published this fall by Simon & Schuster, the company said Thursday, June 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
President Barack Obama applauds after presenting the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking, the renown theoretical physicist and Cambridge University professor, during ceremonies at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Stephen Hawking waits as President Barack Obama prepares to give him a 2009 Medal of freedom during ceremonies in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking communicates with the media using a computer voice synthesizer during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center landing strip in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Thursday, April 26, 2007. Hawking is scheduled to take a zero gravity flight from the Kennedy Space Center. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is assisted off the tarmac at the Kennedy Space Center by his caregiver, Monica Guy, as he is applauded by members of the flight crew after completing a zero-gravity flight, Thursday, April 26, 2007, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Free of his wheelchair and tethered only to heart rate and blood pressure monitors, Hawking on Thursday fulfilled a dream of floating weightless on a zero-gravity jet, a step he hopes leads to further space adventures. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is assisted off the bus by caregiver Monica Guy as Chairman and CEO of Zero Gravity Peter Diamandis, second from left , waits on the tarmac at the Kennedy Space Center landing strip in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Thursday, April 26, 2007. A jet carrying Hawking later took off from the Kennedy Space Center on a flight to simulate zero gravity. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking answers questions on a computer attached to his wheelchair, during an interview in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, April 24, 2007. Hawking, who has been confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life, expects weightlessness to feel like "bliss" when he goes on a "zero-gravity" flight Thursday aboard a refitted jet. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Physicist Stephen Hawking answers questions during an interview in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, April 24, 2007. Hawking will go on a weightless flight on Thursday, April 26, aboard a modified Boeing 727. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Theoretical physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking talks before a group of disabled students in Seattle, July 1, 1993. Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig's disease and speaks with the aid of a synthesizer, is one of the early developers of the theory of black holes. He currently holds the Lucasian Professorship at Cambridge University, which was once held by Sir Isaac Newton. (AP Photo/Dave Wearver)
British astrophysicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, crippled with Lou Gehrig's disease, addresses a symposium on astrophysics with the aid of a computerized voice synthesizer in Chicago, Dec. 16, 1986. (AP Photo/David Banks)
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