WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- European astronomers have spotted what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system, with balmy temperatures that could support water and, potentially, life.
They have not directly seen the planet, orbiting a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. But measurements of the star suggest that a planet not much larger than the Earth is pulling on it, the researchers say in a letter to the editor of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
"Its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky, like our Earth, or covered with oceans," Udry said in a telephone interview.
"Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial life," Xavier Delfosse, a member of the team from Grenoble University in France, said in a statement.