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Super-Earth joins ranks in life-supporting zone

Large exoplanet lies just 42 light-years away

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7:03pm, November 7, 2012

Astronomers on the prowl for potentially habitable planets have found a new candidate: a world seven times as massive as Earth in a nearby solar system.

The planet orbits a star about 42 light-years away in the constellation Pictor. The star, HD 40307, was thought to harbor only three planets, but sensitive data-filtering methods revealed the presence of three more. The farthest-out of these lies in a “sweet spot,” at a distance from its star where liquid water — and thus life — could exist.

“It’s the position of the planet in its orbit that’s important,” says astronomer Hugh Jones of the Uni

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