Discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet

Steve Connor in The Independent:

060125_small_planet_02A planet similar to Earth has been found orbiting a distant star by astronomers who believe they are getting closer to discovering an alien world inhabited by extraterrestrial life.

The new planet is five times the size of Earth but is itself unlikely to harbour life because it is probably covered in frozen oceans with average temperatures of around minus 220C.

However, the scientists behind the discovery believe the find marks a breakthrough in the search for relatively small, rocky planets such as Earth where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for life.

The scientists said that the discovery showed it was technically possible to discover a planet in a temperate “habitable zone” around a far-away sun that would permit the existence of liquid water, which is believed to be necessary for life.

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