(USA TODAY) Scientists have found a planet the size of a jumbo Earth circling a nearby star, meaning it is one of the handful of worlds where astronomers’ sensors might be powerful enough to detect signs of life.

The new planet, known as LHS 1140b, receives enough starlight to allow for liquid water, a prerequisite for life on Earth. It lies 39 light years from our solar system — not exactly in the backyard, but close enough that telescopes now under construction may be able to spot oxygen molecules swarming around it.

“With this discovery we have a world similar to Earth in some aspects, and dissimilar in some others,” says Amaury Triaud of Britain’s University of Cambridge, who was not involved with the research. “This is quite thrilling.”

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