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April 24, 2007 3:00 AM

Small planet may be able to support life, astronomers say

In a significant advance in the search for extraterrestrial life, European astronomers have discovered what they say may be the first habitable planet orbiting a nearby star. They described their find as an Earthlike rocky planet thats small enough and warm enough that it might have liquid water, a necessary condition for life, on its surface. With an estimated radius only 50 percent larger than Earths, the new planet would be the smallest of about 200 such bodies that have been detected so far outside the solar system. It weighs about five times as much as Earth, apparently the lowest mass of any other known planet.

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