NASA Discovered an Earthlike Planet 40 Light Years Away

It's similar to our planet in size and (relative) distance from its sun

NASA telescope
NASA telescopes find the most interesting things sometimes.
Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Is there life elsewhere in the cosmos? It’s a question everyone from scientists to science fiction writers has considered — but until contact with an extraterrestrial species actually happens, it’s likely to go unanswered. Still, odds are good that if aliens similar to humans exist somewhere in the universe, they may well have developed on a planet similar to Earth. (Unless octopi turn out to be aliens. You never know.) That, in turn, gives the scientists who monitor space certain characteristics to look for.

And, wouldn’t you know it, NASA recently caught sight of something that fits the bill. As LiveScience’s Robert Lea reports, the planet — known as Gliese 12b — is similar to Earth and Venus in size, and is a comparable distance from its own star. And it’s just 40 light years away — relatively close in terms of the universe, but a bit further in practical terms. (If you’ve watched 3 Body Problem, or read the trilogy on which it’s based, you likely know this already.)

While Gliese 12b is comparable in size to Earth — a little larger, actually — the star it orbits is significantly smaller than our sun. The star Gliese is a red dwarf, a type of star that doesn’t emit as much heat as the one in our solar system. Since Gliese 12b is closer to its star, it’s likely to receive a similar amount of heat.

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“It’s either in the habitable zone of its star or it is right on the edge of it — so, it could be habitable,” scientist Larissa Palethorpe told Live Science. Still, one question has eluded scientists so far, however: whether or not there’s an atmosphere on Gliese 12b. That, too, will go a long way towards determining the likelihood of extraterrestrial life there.

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