* Star located 22 light years from Earth
* Planets in star's 'habitable zone' where water can exist
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 25 A neighbor star
has at least six planets in orbit, including three circling at
the right distance for water to exist, a condition believed to
be necessary for life, scientists said on Tuesday.
Previously, the star known as Gliese 667C was found to be
hosting three planets, one of which was located in its so-called
"habitable zone" where temperatures could support liquid surface
water. That planet and two newly found sibling worlds are bigger
than Earth, but smaller than Neptune.
"This is the first time that three such planets have been
spotted orbiting in this zone in the same system," astronomer
Paul Butler, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.,
said in a statement.
Scientists say the discovery of three planets in a star's
habitable zone raises the odds of finding Earth-like worlds
where conditions might have been suitable for life to evolve.
"Instead of looking at 10 stars to look for a single
potentially habitable planet, we now know we can look at just
one star and have a high chance of finding several of them,"
astronomer Rory Barnes, with the University of Washington, said
in a statement.
Additional observations of Gliese 667C and a reanalysis of
existing data showed it hosts at least six, and possibly, seven
The star is located relatively close to Earth, just 22 light
years (129 trillion miles/207 trillion km) away. It is about
one-third the size of the sun and the faintest star of a triple
In addition to the three well-positioned "super-Earths," two
more planets may orbit on the fringe of the star's habitable
zone and also could possibly support life.
The research will be published this week in the journal
Astronomy & Astrophysics.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Mohammad Zargham)