Last year, NASA's planet-hunting telescope Kepler found more than 1,200 alien planets, which are still being reviewed for validity. Of these, one was labeled as a "Goldilocks planet" -- or one potentially suitable for life like that present on Earth. Now, another Earth-like planet has been discovered using public data and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph in Chile.
It is being called the best one yet.
Space.com reports that GJ 667Cc is a "Super-Earth", sizing up at least 4.5 times bigger than our planet. The planet, which takes 28 days to orbit around its parent star, is 22 light-years away, which scientists consider our "next door neighbor":
"It's the Holy Grail of exoplanet research to find a planet around a star orbiting at the right distance so it's not too close where it would lose all its water and boil away, and not too far where it would all freeze," Steven Vogt, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told SPACE.com. "It's right smack in the habitable zone — there's no question or discussion about it. It's not on the edge, it's right in there."
"It's very nearby. There are only about 100 stars closer to us than this one," [Vogt said.]
The researchers also note that an unusual feature about this planet is that it is part of a three star system, although the other two stars are further away than its primary. The host star, according to Space.com, has less mass than our own sun because it is composed of different elements and has fewer heavy metals. The lack of heavy metals had scientists surprised at finding the planets, as these elements are what form the planets in the first place.
Space.com reports that scientists believe this discovery opens the door for more environments in space that could be home to Earth-like planets than previously expected.
Unlike the many exoplanets discovered last year with the Kepler telescope, this planet was discovered using data from the European Southern Observatory and observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope in Chile, according to Space.com. Vogt said that these instruments allowed them to look at planets much closer than those being observed by Kepler, which are typically thousands of light years away. Vogt said that unlike the planets found by Kepler, which are too far away, the planets found closer in could eventually have a probe sent to them and "within a few hundred years, it could be sending back picture postcards."
Related: Check out this Blaze article about how astronomers are now estimating that planets outnumber stars in our galaxy. Also, astronomers recently found Earth-sized planets, but they were too close to their star to be considered habitable.