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february 06, 2013 • 12:47 PM

Closest Earth-like planet 'stroll across park'

 

Earth-like worlds may be closer and more plentiful than anyone imagined.

Astronomers reported Wednesday that the closest Earth-like planet may be just 13 light years away. That planet hasn't been found yet, but should be there based on the team's study of red dwarf stars. Galactically speaking, it's a stroll across the park.

Small, cool red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, numbering 75 billion.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics team estimates 6 percent of red dwarf stars have Earth-like planets. To qualify, the planet must be roughly the size of Earth and get as much light from its star, as Earth does from the sun.

This high rate of occurrence should simplify the search for extraterrestrial life.

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Online:

Harvard-Smithsonian Center: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html

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