The search for a faraway planet that could support life has found the most promising candidate to date, in the form of a distant world some 120,000 billion miles away from Earth.
Scientists believe that the planet is made of rock, like the Earth, and sits in the "Goldilocks zone" of its sun, where it is neither too hot nor too cold for water to exist in liquid form – widely believed to be an essential precondition for life to evolve.
It is unlikely that anyone would be able to visit planet Gliese 581g in the near future as it would take 20 years travelling at the speed of light to reach it, and many thousands of years in a spacecraft built using the best-available rocket technology.
The planet is named after its star, Gliese 581, a red dwarf found in the constellation Libra, and is the sixth planet in its solar System. Scientists said last night that it is the most habitable planet yet found beyond our own Solar System, and a prime spot for the possible existence of extraterrestrial life.
Two previous claims for the existence of earth-like planets in the same solar system were subsequently found to be overstated in that they were either too far away or too near to Gliese 581, making it too cold or too hot for liquid water and life to exist.