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Astronomers say the discovery of three planets that circle a small, dim star could bolster the chances of finding life beyond earth.
The earth-sized planets are orbiting their parent star, located in the constellation Aquarius relatively close to earth at 40 light years away, at a distance that provides the right amount of heat for there to be liquid water on their surface, a condition scientists believe may be critical for fostering life.
Scientists said the discovery marked the first time that planets were found orbiting a common type of star known as an ultra-cool dwarf.
The discovery was made using Europe’s transiting planets and planetesimals small telescope, or TRAPPIST, located at the La Silla observatory in Chile.
Though the newly found planets are about the size of earth, scientists said that their host star is just eight percent of the size of the sun and less than a half a percent as bright.
So far, astronomers have found more than two-thousand planets beyond the solar system and are developing techniques to scan planets' atmospheres for gases related to biological activities.