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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scientists Find Planet Like Earth

WASHINGTON -- European astronomers have spotted what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system, with balmy temperatures that could support water and potentially life.

They have not directly seen the planet, orbiting a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. But measurements of the star suggest that a planet not much larger than the Earth is pulling on it, the researchers say in a letter to the editor of the Astronomy and Astrophysics journal.

"This one is the first one that is at the same time probably rocky, with water, and in a zone close to the star where the water could exist in liquid form," said Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, who led the study.

"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth is 0 to 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid."

Most of the 200 or so planets that have been spotted outside this solar system have been gas giants like Jupiter. But this one is small.

"Its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky, like our Earth, or covered with oceans," Udry said in a telephone interview.

It appears to have a mass five times that of Earth's.

The research team includes scientists credited with the first widely accepted discovery of a planet outside our solar system, in 1995.