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3 habitable planets found orbiting Gliese 667C

Scientists have spotted three habitable planets orbiting Gliese 667C, a star just 22 light years from Earth.

A team of astronomers led by Guillem Anglada-Escude of the University of Göttingen in Germany and Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom made the discovery when observing the system from the Silla Observatory in Chile, BBC News reported. Their findings will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The planets are circling at the right distance from the star for liquid surface water to exist, Reuters reported. Three, possibly four, more planets also orbit Gliese 667C.

"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, DC, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The three planets are bigger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune. Gliese 667C is a little more than one-third the mass of our Sun.

The habitable planets’ “orbital periods are 28, 39, and 62 days, which means that they all orbit the star closer to its surface than Mercury in our own system,” Tuomi told BBC News. “Yet, the estimated surface temperatures enable the existence of liquid water on them because of the low luminosity and low mass of the star.”

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