In what could be one of the biggest developments in the search for habitable planets, NASA has discovered a “Super-Earth” estimated to be about six times the size of our planet and located a mere 31 light-years away.
The planet, GJ 357 d, orbits a dwarf star in the Hydra constellation and may have the right conditions to support liquid water as it lies within its star’s habitable zone, reported CNN.
“This is exciting, as this is humanity’s first nearby super-Earth that could harbour life,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, the director of the Carl Sagan Institute.
While the average temperature of the planet is estimated to be around -64 degrees Fahrenheit (-53 degrees Celcius, it could still maintain liquid water on its surface like Earth owing to its thick atmosphere.
The planet was spotted by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS.
TESS began its space operation in July 2018, promising to survey about 85 per cent of the sky. The satellite has so far discovered more than 20 planets outside of our solar system.
It may be noted that a super-Earth is an extrasolar planet with a mass higher than Earth’s, but substantially below those of the Solar System’s ice giants, Uranus and Neptune.