Scientists have found "Super-Earth," the best place to look for signs of life outside of the Solar System—a rocky planet that could hold the answer to the age-old question of whether or not we are alone in the universe.
"This is the most exciting exoplanet I've seen in the past decade," said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, according to The Telegraph.
"We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science—searching for evidence of life beyond Earth," he added.
The new world—dubbed LHS 1140b—revolves around a dim red dwarf star in the constellation Cetus, which can be seen on Earth using a high-powered telescope.
"The present conditions of the red dwarf are particularly favorable—LHS 1140b spins more slowly and emits less high-energy radiation than other similar low-mass stars," said Nicola Astudillo-Defru from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland.
Scientists said LHS 1140b appears to have an atmosphere and is located within the "Goldilocks Zone" where it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.
Although the planet is 10 times closer to its parent star than Earth, the star is a red dwarf, which is far cooler than our own yellow dwarf, they said.
What makes the discovery even more tantalizing is the fact that LHS 1140b is only 40 light years from Earth, a distance that can allow for a transmission of signal from our world.
The planet was found by an international team of scientists who have been studying data from European Space Observatory's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument.
The discovery of LHS 1140b is the latest in a series of recent breakthroughs in the search for extraterrestrial life. In February scientists announced that they had found a solar system very much like our own. They called it Trappist-1, a system that includes at least seven Earth-sized planets.
In August last year, Professor Stephen Hawking announced a project to send a spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri star system Proxima B, which is just five light years away. That star system is believed to host a rocky exoplanet that could harbor life.
However, experts said the discovery of LHS 1140b appears much more compelling than previous discoveries.
"The LHS 1140 system might prove to be an even more important target for the future characterization of planets in the habitable zone than Proxima b or Trappist-1," said Xavier Delfosse, a member of the French National Center for Scientific Research in France.
The research on the latest "Super-Earth" was recently published in the journal Nature.