TECH

'Habitable' Exo-Planet Found Orbiting Distant Red Dwarf Star

24/03/2014 11:34 GMT | Updated 24/03/2014 11:59 GMT

A Nasa researcher has reportedly found the first Earth-sized planet in the 'Habitable' zone of another solar system.

The find has been made by Nasa Ames Research Centre astronomer Thomas Barclay, according to the reports -- though it will not be officially announced until later this week.

The discovery was made with data recorded by the Kepler Space Telescope, which has so far catalogued hundreds of alien 'exo-planets' and has data likely to contain details of thousands more.

So far we don't know much about the finding - it has yet to be published, and only hints have leaked on Twitter. It is expected that more details will come at the Search for Life Beyond the Solar System conference.

But from what we know, this particular world has the following attributes, according to Discovery:

  • It is located in a five planet system
  • It has an orbit with a radius 1.1-times Earth's
  • It circles a M1 dwarf star, dimmer than our sun
  • It is located in the star's habitable zone, where liquid surface water could exist

The reason that planets within habitable zones are so intriguing, is that scientists believe the existence of surface liquid water is virtually essential for life to form and thrive on another planet.

Unfortunately finding small-ish worlds within this zone is difficult from such a great distance because they can only be seen when - and if - they pass in front of their star relative to Earth.

Kepler was launched in 2009 to look for these subtle changes in light, and so begin to detail what are probably billions of planets located in our galaxy.