Astronomers have discovered three new exoplanets very similar to those in our own solar system using the European Southern Observatory’s ‘Very Large Telescope’ in Chile.

The planets are orbiting the star, L 98-59 that is 35 light-years away from Earth. While all three planets include some water content, the two planets nearest the star are probably dry and more like Earth or Venus. The third planet, however, is an “ocean world,” and could have as much as one third of its mass made up of liquid.

These three planets were first spotted by astronomers in 2019 using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite also known as the planet-hunting TESS mission. The space-based observer is able to detect exoplanets using the transit method, which measures the dip in light that occurs when a planet passes in front of its star.

Another method of finding exoplanets is known as radial velocity, which calculates the wobble that occurs when orbiting planets create gravitational tugs on a host star. Measurements from the TESS mission were combined with the radial velocity measurements made using the Very Large Telescope to make new observations.

The team found “hidden” exoplanets that had not been previously spotted, discovering a fourth and a possible fifth planet that are warm enough and could also have water.

“We have hints of the presence of a terrestrial planet in the habitable zone of this system,” said Olivier Demangeon, lead study author and a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço, University of Porto in Portugal, in a statement.

“We, as a society, have been chasing terrestrial planets since the birth of astronomy, and now we are finally getting closer and closer to the detection of a terrestrial planet in the habitable zone of its star, of which we could study the atmosphere.”

The research was published Thursday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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