The Straits Times
www.straitstimes.com
Published on Feb 07, 2013
 

Earth-like planets may be closer than thought: Study

 
 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Scientists looking for habitable planets may not have to stray far from our galactic neighbourhood, said a new study on Wednesday, which calculated an Earth-size planet could be orbiting a red dwarf as near as 13 light years away.

"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet. Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted," said Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing.

The researchers based their calculations on planets already discovered by the United States (US) super-telescope Kepler, focusing on the question of which "red dwarf" stars could have potentially habitable Earth-size planets in their orbits.

Red dwarfs are smaller, cooler and fainter than our solar system's sun - and they are also the most commonly found stars in our galaxy, making up about three of every four stars in the Milky Way.