A PLANET some 31 light years from Earth is “potentially habitable” by humans, scientists claim.
And astronomers think that they will soon be able to monitor the ‘Super-Earth’, called GJ 357 d, for alien life forms.
The planet was found using Nasa’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which is designed to look for worlds that could harbour life.
Team leader Dr Lisa Kaltenegger, from Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute at Ithaca, New York, said: «This is exciting, as this is humanity’s first nearby super-Earth that could harbour life.
«With a thick atmosphere, the planet GJ 357 d could maintain liquid water on its surface like Earth and we could pick out signs of life with upcoming telescopes soon to be online.»
Doctoral candidate Jack Madden explained that investigating new discoveries provides an opportunity to test theories and models.
Mr Madden said: «We built the first models of what this new world could be like.»
He added: «Just knowing that liquid water can exist on the surface of this planet motivates scientists to find ways of detecting signs of life.»
The team’s findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.