Newly discovered planets may boost search for life beyond Earth

The discovery of three planets that circle a small, dim star could bolster the chances of finding life beyond Earth, astronomers said.

The Earth-sized planets are orbiting their parent star, located in the constellation Aquarius relatively close to Earth at 40 light years away, at a distance that provides the right amount of heat for there to be liquid water on their surface, a condition scientists believe may be critical for fostering life.

The discovery was made using a special telescope at an observatory in Chile.

Though the newly found planets are about the size of Earth, their host star is just 8 percent of the size of the sun and less than a half a percent as bright, the scientists said.

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