NASA finds 20 potentially habitable worlds that have been ‘hiding in plain sight’.
Scientists have made the discovery from the latest information from the powerful Kepler space telescope that reveals the worlds orbit stars similar to our own Sun.
Kepler team leader Jeff Coughlin said that one exoplanet was particularly exciting as it had an orbit of 395 Earth days and a similar size, while another just had an orbit of 18 days.
The Earth-like plant was about 97 per cent the size of Earth with a similar climate to our own tundra regions.
Although it had a chilly climate it was warm enough to hold liquid water, an essential element to support life.
Mr Coughlin told New Scientist: “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.”
He added: “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.”
The planet, called KOI-7923.01 has a cooler temperature due to its distance from its star and the star itself is cooler than our own Sun.
This means its climate may be rather like the Earth’s tundra regions, such as Siberia, which have cool areas but would still be able to support life.
However the team said that more observations were needed to come to any firm conclusions.
The discovery of the new planets will now form part of a wider investigation from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Scientist working on Kepler have also discovered the “Rosetta Stone” which appear to show that our own solar cycles are not unique in the galaxy.
Observers of the star HD 173701 say it is almost identical to our Sun in terms of size, mass and age, but has a metallicity twice as high as our own star.
Travis Metcalfe, one of the author’s of a paper in The Astrophysical Journal, told Forbes magazine: “This star is a Rosetta Stone for stellar dynamos – despite having the same mass and age as the sun, its cycle period is 7.4 years instead of 11.”
Christoffer Karoff, the paper’s lead author and an astronomer at Denmark’s Aarhus University, said: “We show that the chemical composition of a sun-like star can influence the dynamo generated in the star.”
Earlier this year the Kepler spacecraft discovered 219 new exoplanet candidates, 10 of which could be habitable.
There are around 4,034 observed potential planets in our galaxy, according to Nasa’s Ames Research Centre.
NASA’s space observatory was launched on March 7, 2009 with the aim of looking for Earth-like planets that were orbiting other stars.
Kepler uses a photometer that continually monitors the brightness of more than 145,000 stars within a fixed field of vision.
That information is then transmitted to Earth where it is analysed to look for periodic dimming, possibly caused by exoplanets across its view.