Life may have evolved on at least three planets in a newly discovered solar system just 39 light years from Earth, Nasa has announced.
The six inner planets lie in a temperate zone, where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C.
Of these, at least three are thought to be capable of having oceans, increasing the likelihood of life.
No other known star system contains such a large number of Earth-sized and probably rocky planets.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington in a statement released by Nasa.
“Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward towards that goal.”
British astronomer Dr Chris Copperwheat, from Liverpool John Moores University, who co-led the international team, said: “The discovery of multiple rocky planets with surface temperatures that allow for liquid water make this amazing system an exciting future target in the search for life.”
The planets were found using the “transit” method that looks for tiny amounts of dimming caused by a world blocking light from its star.
©The Daily Telegraph, Staff reporter