Astronomers have discovered the three smallest confirmed planets ever detected outside our solar system.
The trio of new planets that are smaller than Earth and appear rocky, orbit a single star too closely to be in its habitable zone—the ring-shaped region around a star where the temperature is mild enough for liquid water, and possibly life, to exist.
“Red dwarfs make up eight out of every ten stars in the galaxy,” says John Johnson, assistant professor of astronomy at California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
“That boosts the chances of other life being in the universe—that’s the ultimate result here. If these planets are as common as they appear—and because red dwarfs themselves are so common—then the whole galaxy must be just swarming with little habitable planets around faint red dwarfs.”
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Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech