Science & Environment

Scientists discover three new planets

An impression of what the sky might look like from the exoplanet Gliese 667Cd

Scientists have discovered three new planets they say could carry water because of where they are in relation to their star.

The planets have been spotted surrounding a star called Gliese 667C, which is 22 light-years away.

Just as Earth is the right distance from our sun to support life, these three planets may also be the right distance from the star they orbit.

The star is less hot than our sun but the planets are close enough that their surface temperatures should be about the same as Earth's, which could mean they have water.

The team of astronomers from all over the world made the discovery by studying a set of data using powerful telescopes at the Silla Observatory in Chile.

One of the group's leaders Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire in England said:

"Their orbital periods are 28, 39, and 62 days, which means that they all orbit the star closer to its surface than Mercury in our own system. Yet, the estimated surface temperatures enable the existence of liquid water on them because of the low luminosity and low mass of the star."

The team say the planets are likely to have a rocky surface, but they have no way of knowing if there is life on the planets.