26/06/2014 07:08 BST | Updated 26/06/2014 07:59 BST

Gliese 832C: Nearby Planet Is 'Most Earth Like' Ever Discovered


A 'super-Earth' planet has been discovered a relative 'stone's throw' from our Solar System.

Gliese 832 C might be the planet most capable of supporting life ever discovered beyond our Sun.

Located 16 light years from Earth -- which is far away, let's be clear, but not that far considering our closest star is Proxima Centauri 4.2 light years away -- the planet is located in its own sun's 'habitable' zone where liquid water could exist.

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The planet is at least five times as big as the Earth, and could still have other strange and potentially inhospitable characteristics that would make it difficult for complex life to evolve. The planet orbits its Sun ever 36 days, but that sun is a cooler red dwarf star and so it receives about the same about of stellar energy.

Abel Mendez Torres, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, said it might be the most Earth-like planet ever discovered.

"The Earth Similarity Index (ESI, in which a perfect twin is a '1') of Gliese 832c (ESI = 0.81) is comparable to Gliese 667Cc (ESI = 0.84) and Kepler-62e (ESI = 0.83)," said Torres in a blog post.

"This makes Gliese 832c one of the top three most Earth-like planets according to the ESI (i.e., with respect to Earth's stellar flux and mass) and the closest one to Earth of all three — a prime object for follow-up observations."

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The planet was discovered by looking for small shifts in the gravity of its host star. it is difficult currently to look for planets which are much smaller or further out from their star because those wobbles are so hard to detect.

While the planet might well be far too hot for life, it has been added to the 'Habitable Exoplanets Catalog' along with 23 other worlds that we might, one day, be able to see more clearly or even -- who knows? -- explore.