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Last Updated: Wednesday April 25 2007 13:31 GMT

Is there life on new planet?

How the planet might look

The discovery of an Earth-like planet outside our Solar System has got scientists really excited and wondering if there could be life on it.

Water is one of the main things needed to support life and they think the planet's got rocks and oceans on it.

In fact, although the planet is 1.5 times bigger than Earth, it is more Earth-like than any other known to man.

A team of European astronomers found the planet 20.5 light years away or about 189 million million kilometres!

Gliese 581 (Digital Sky Survey)
The Gliese 581 star is much cooler and dimmer than our own Sun

It would take hundreds of thousands of years to get there, but that's not likely to happen any time soon as it's not yet possible to build a spaceship that could make the journey.

The planet orbits a star called Gliese 581 - just like our planet goes around the Sun.

Most of the planets orbiting stars outside our Solar System are giant balls of gas, making life impossible.

Exciting

But the Gliese 581 super-Earth, as the planet is being called, is in what scientists call the 'Goldilocks Zone' where temperatures are just right for life to have a chance to exist.

That makes this find really exciting and scientists are no doubt there will be future missions to find out once and for all whether there really is life in outer space.



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