UK & World News
'Earth-Like' Planet Discovered By Scientists
Scientists have discovered a planet with conditions that could support life - orbiting a sun that is visible to the naked eye.
The world is one of five thought to be circling Tau Ceti, a star 12 light years away which is almost identical to the sun.
Astronomers estimate the Tau Ceti planets to be two to six times bigger than Earth. And one of them, with five times the Earth's mass, lies in the star's "habitable zone".
The orbital region is also known as the 'Goldilocks zone', as it is neither too hot nor too cold to allow liquid surface water and, potentially, life.
Details of the discovery are to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Scientists found the Tau Ceti planetary family using a highly sensitive technique that combined data from more than 6,000 observations from three different telescopes.
Dr James Jenkins, a member of the international team from the University of Hertfordshire, said: "Tau Ceti is one of our nearest cosmic neighbours and so bright that we may be able to study the atmospheres of these planets in the not-too-distant future.
"Planetary systems found around nearby stars close to our sun indicate that these systems are common in our Milky Way galaxy."
More than 800 planets have been discovered orbiting stars beyond the sun since the 1990s.
Those found around the nearest sun-like stars are the most interesting to astronomers.
Professor Steve Vogt, another team member, from the University of California at Santa Cruz, said: "This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such
potentially habitable Earth-sized planets. They are everywhere, even right next door."