Astronomers have discovered a new Earth-sized exoplanet — christened Ross 128b — which possesses the right qualities required for the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Scientists at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla site in Chile discovered this exoplanet using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument.
Xavier Bonfils of the Université Grenoble Alps was the lead researcher of this study.
Ross 128 b has a parent star M dwarf, which doesn't emit strong radiations like faster-spinning, younger stars, which results in providing Ross 128b a hospitable environment, making this exoplanet a potential candidate for life.
Ross 128b orbits its host star at the right distance, which makes the astronomers believe there could be liquid water on it if its atmospheric conditions are suitable.
But, Bonfils believes astronomers shouldn't get too excited regarding the presence of water on Ross 128b so soon.
"Some (computer) models say the planet is close enough that it could have lost its atmosphere. Other models say the planet would have built up clouds that reflect radiation and prevent the planet from overheating, so water could remain liquid on the planet's surface," Bonfils was quoted as saying by Geographic.
"We definitely need more data before we can say anything conclusive," he added.
Though Ross 128b is an exoplanet present in close proximity -- 11 lightyears away -- and has the potential to host life, it's not the only one spotted this year, Bonfils explained.
Astronomers are waiting for the year 2024, when ESO will be opening the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will have a mirror around 40 metres across — around four times bigger than any current telescope mirror.
It will be capable of capturing images 16 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope, and will allow astronomers to collect light from the exoplanet and analyse it for biological gases, including oxygen, space author Dr Stuart Clark was quoted by the Guardian as saying.