NASA's scientists have confirmed the existence of an earth-like planet outside the solar system. Despite the slightly dull name, the condition on Kepler 22-b could be just right for life. Circling a similar star to our Sun about 600 light years away, the 'New Earth' is bigger than our planet, and it boasts a rather pleasant temperature of around 22 degrees centigrade, which is just the right temperature for liquid water - something vital to support life.
But sci-fi fans need not get too excited about interesting aliens just yet. "There is no guarantee that there is even any water on it,” Dr Stephen Serjeant from the Open University told OpenLearn. “No water means no life, not even bacteria." He also added that it is certainly a very important step in the direction of finding a 'twin' to the Earth, but that is as far as we should go.
In one of the episodes from The Open University's iTunesU and YouTube series Seven Wonders of the Microbe World, experts explore how the search for new microbes is helping us to find life beyond earth:
The Open University / BBC co-production Stargazing Live, which is airing in January, will explore exoplanets and more. Visit the BBC Stargazing Live site and come back to the OpenLearn website for more information about the programme in the near future.