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November 9 2012
Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a super Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star 42 light-years away in the southern-hemisphere constellation Pictor.
If the data truly signal a planet, the object could host liquid water on its surface, the team estimates. Liquid water is seen as a key ingredient for organic life.
So far, astronomers have detected more than 840 planets orbiting other stars. A handful of those are super Earths that fall within their stars' habitable zones. But only two – including this newly announced planet candidate – are far enough away from their stars to allow for a day-night cycle. The others orbit so close to their stars that they've become tidally locked, presenting the same face to their stars as they swing about their orbits.
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