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A new class of exoplanet very different to our own, but which could support life, has been identified by astronomers, which could greatly accelerate the search for life outside our Solar System.

In the search for life elsewhere, astronomers have mostly looked for planets of a similar size, mass, temperature and atmospheric composition to Earth. However, astronomers from the University of Cambridge believe there are more promising possibilities out there.

The researchers have identified a new class of habitable planets, dubbed 'Hycean' planets -- hot, ocean-covered planets with hydrogen-rich atmospheres -- which are more numerous and observable than Earth-like planets.

The researchers say the results, reported in The Astrophysical Journal, could mean that finding biosignatures of life outside our Solar System within the next two or three years is a real possibility.

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