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'Muggy' new planet could sustain life

ASTRONOMERS believe they have found a second planet outside our solar system that seems to be in the right zone for life -- just.

But it would feel like a steam bath -- hot, sticky and beyond uncomfortable.

European astronomers announced the discovery, along with about 50 other planets outside our solar system, at a US conference.

The most exciting of those planets is confirmed as lying in what astronomers call the habitable zone, or the "Goldilocks zone". That means it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to be present. Water is the key to a planet being able to support Earth-like life, scientists say.

The new planet is about 3.6 times the mass of Earth. Temperatures there may range from 30C to 50C, with plenty of humidity.

"It's going to be really muggy," said study author Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer with the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

"We're not saying it's habitable for you and me."

But other types of life could conceivably take root there, she said.

They would probably be closer to the ground than humans because gravity on this planet is about 1.4 times what we experience.

Irish Independent