CAPE CANAVERAL: The discovery of three planets that circle a small, dim star could bolster the chances of finding life beyond Earth, astronomers said on Monday.
The Earth-sized planets are orbiting their parent star, located in the constellation Aquarius relatively close to Earth at 40 light years away, at a distance that provides the right amount of heat for there to be liquid water on their surface, a condition scientists believe may be critical for fostering life.
The discovery marked the first time that planets were found orbiting a common type of star known as an ultra-cool dwarf, the scientists said.
“If we want to find life elsewhere in the universe, this is where we should start to look,” Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature, said in a statement.
The discovery was made using Europe’s Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, or TRAPPIST, located at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.