UK scientists have found 60 new planets
Sixty planets have been discovered, including one which has been described as a “super-Earth”.
A huge, rocky planet known as Gliese 411b is the fourth planet from its host star, likely putting it in its “habitable zone” the region near a star where it is neither too hot nor too cold to support life.
The international team of scientists revealed that all of the nearby stars that they analysed had at least one planet orbiting them.
If, scientists add, that applies to every star in the universe, there could be trillions of planets making it virtually impossible for there to not be life outside of Earth.
One of the planets has been described as a "super-Earth"
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HD 209458 b (nickname 'Osiris') The first planet to be seen in transit (crossing its star) and the first planet to have it light directly detected.
Lead researcher Dr Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire said: "It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them.
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"This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago.
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"These new planets also help us better understand the formation processes of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly.”
However, he added that there could be many more than the 60.
Dr Tuomi added: “We were very conservative in this paper about what counts as an exoplanet candidate and what does not, and even with our stringent criteria, we found over 100 new likely planet candidates.”
Paul Butler, from the Carnegie Institute of Science, in Washington, described the feat as “my crowning achievements as an astronomer. It represents a good chunk of my life's work.”