The planet, LHS 1140b, is one of seven orbiting a star named Trappist-1. It has immediately been pushed to the front of the queue in the quest to find alien life – because it lies in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone.
This is an area from a star where the surface temperature is not too hot, or too cold, but just right. This means water could flow in liquid form, rather than as ice or vapor, allowing life to flourish.
Astronomers studying the rocky world believe its atmosphere could have supported the world for billions of years.
Jason Dittmann of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said:
“This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in decades. We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science – searching for evidence of life beyond Earth.”
Further studies are set to take place on the planet, which is 39 light years from Earth. All seven of Trappist-1’s planets are considered potential candidates for having water in some form, but the chances are highest for three located in the Goldilocks zone.
Xavier Bonfils, an astronomer at the Observatory of the Sciences of the Universe in Grenoble, France, said LHS 1140b now ‘joins Trappist-1 at the head of the rankings’.
“We are very excited by this discovery. It’s a super opportunity.”