SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND two Earth-sized planets orbiting a star outside the solar system, an encouraging sign for prospects of finding life elsewhere.
They are the smallest planets found so far that orbit a star resembling our sun.
Scientists are seeking Earth-sized planets as potential homes for extraterrestrial life, said Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, who reports the new findings in a paper published online Tuesday by the journal Nature. One planet’s diameter is only 3 per cent larger than Earth’s, while the other’s diameter is about nine-tenths that of Earth. They appear to be rocky, like our planet.
But they are too hot to contain life as we know it, with calculated temperatures of about 700 degrees and 400 degrees centigrade, he said.
Any life found on another plant may not be intelligent; it could be bacteria or mould or some completely unknown form.
This NASA video offers a handy explainer on the new planets:
Video: NASA Ames Research Centre. Additional reporting by Michael Freeman.