19/07/2012 09:48 BST | Updated 17/09/2012 10:12 BST

Roasted 'Hell World' Is Smallest Planet Discovered Near To Our Solar System

A 'roasted' alien world discovered by Nasa scientists is the closest planet smaller than Earth ever found.

The planet - UCF-1.01 - was identified by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

It is thought to be about two-thirds the size of Earth, and is located a 'mere' 33 light-years away.

It was discovered not by direct observation - it is too small, and too far away to 'see' with any lens - but by noticing dips in the light streaming from the local red-dwarf star, GJ 436.

The world is described as "very small, very hot and very near", and probably has no atmosphere.

In fact the hellish world is "mostly geographically dead", and could even be covered in magma, according to the team who discovered it.

Despite still being an impossibly far distance from our solar system for us to ever go there - if you travelled at the speed of the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is about to reach inter-stellar space, it would take roughly 582,000 years to make a one-way trip - it remains a remarkable find.

Its existence indicates other Earth-like worlds could exist closer to our solar system than previously thought - and helps researchers understand how to find them.

I hope future observations will confirm these exciting results, which show Spitzer may be able to discover exoplanets as small as Mars," said Michael Werner, Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"Even after almost nine years in space, Spitzer's observations continue to take us in new and important scientific directions."