Scientists at the University of Birmingham have discovered an ancient solar system that bares a striking resemblance to ou own.
The discovery was made after trawling through data collected by the Kepler telescope. At 11.2 billion years old, Kepler-444 and its orbiting planets are believed to be two and a half times older than our own solar system which means they were created right at the dawn of the Milky Way.
With five Earth-sized exoplanets surrounding the star Dr Tiago Campante writes that this would provide a tantalising clue on 'the possibility for the existence of ancient life in the Galaxy'.
Having proven that Earth-like planets could form around stars so long ago, the discovery presents us with the sobering possibility that intelligent alien civilisations may have already existed in the universe, dying out long before the Earth was ever created.
There's hope yet however, as Dr Campante goes on to suggest that it's just one side of a coin, the other being that "there may be civilisations out there with a head-start of a few billion years. Imagine the level of technology."
Either one provides sadly more questions than we can answer, however it's comforting to know that if planets could form so early in the history of the universe that opens up an even wider window for intelligent alien life to develop.