The search for life beyond our planet has just taken a massive leap, as NASA has discovered the ‘first nearby super-Earth.’
Using its TESS satellite, NASA has discovered a planet about 31 light-years away from our planet, and its conditions mean that it could be habitable.
Dr Lisa Kaltenegger, who led the study, said: “This is exciting, as this is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbour life - uncovered with help from TESS, our small, mighty mission with a huge reach."
While its official name is GJ 357 d, researchers have nicknamed the planet ‘super Earth’, as it’s much bigger than our own planet, but with similar conditions.
Dr Kaltenegger added: “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.”
GJ 357 d is one of three planets orbiting its star.
Alongside it are GJ 357 b, a so-called ‘hot Earth’ about 22% larger than Earth, and GJ 357 c, which is at least 3.4 times bigger than our planet.
While GJ 357 b and GJ 357 c are likely too hot to harbour alien life, the researchers believe the conditions on GJ 357 d could provide perfect conditions.
The team now hopes to study the planet further to understand its conditions.
Jack Madden, who also worked on the study, added: “We built the first models of what this new world could be like.
“Just knowing that liquid water can exist on the surface of this planet motivates scientists to find ways of detecting signs of life."