super-earth-hd-40307gResearchers have allegedly discovered what is being considered a super-Earth, and it’s only 44 light years away. Not far at all. According to Reuters, astronomers are saying the big orb, dubbed HD 40307g, possesses key features that make it a prime candidate for life, including the distance the planet rests from its sun.

“There is no reason why such a planet could not sustain an Earth-like climate,” said Guillem Angla-Escude from Germany’s University of Goettingen.

The planet is estimated to be at least seven times the size of Earth, and receives a similar amount of solar energy as our planet from its own sun. Two other planets were discovered in the vicinity as well, but only HD 40307g was found to be in the habitable zone, where temperatures are such that liquid water may exist.

Even more interesting about the discovery is the fact that the planet rotates, meaning it experiences night and day cycles, just as Earth does. That right there further increases chances of an Earth-life environment, Reuters said. Planets that don’t spin — let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be on the dark side.

Over 800 planets have been discovered since the early 1990s, but only a few lie in what’s referred to as a Goldilocks Zone — that perfect inbetween where everything is just right. Most other planets are either situated too close or too far away from their parent stars.

The planet’s geological makeup is still unclear, but neighboring super-Earths supposedly consist largely of rock, leading researchers to believe the HD 40307g is the same. Spying on a planet that’s 44 light years away is one thing. Actually traveling that far is another. But it’s cool to just know that planets that could potentially support life exist.

[via Reuters]

And for good measure, here’s an infographic that further explains the Habitable Zone, courtesy of Space.com.

HD 40307g infographic