Speed Reads

where the aliens are?

Astronomers discover a 'super-Earth' exoplanet that might be habitable

Just months after spotting seven Earth-sized exoplanets that could support life, scientists have discovered another potentially habitable planet.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers unveiled LHS 1140b, a "super-Earth" exoplanet that has a mass nearly seven times that of Earth and may offer the "best opportunity ever to find alien life," Wired reported. "We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science: searching for evidence of life beyond Earth," said Jason Dittmann at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The planet, located some 39 light-years away from Earth, is believed to orbit within a red dwarf star's habitable zone, meaning it could hold liquid water. Moreover, because the planet regularly passes in front of its star, scientists have been able to measure its mass and size, which has led them to believe the planet is rocky, not gaseous. Once telescopes currently in development are launched, scientists hope to be able to watch the planet's path to see if its atmosphere contains carbon and oxygen — further signs of life.

"I am really, really excited about this discovery," said David Charbonneau, study author and Harvard University astronomy professor. "This is the one we've been hunting for all these years!"