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November 9 2012

What sets newly found super Earth apart? It's simple as night and day. (+video)

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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