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UNSW Australia astronomers have discovered the closest potentially habitable planet found outside our solar system so far, orbiting a star just 14 light years away.

The planet, more than four times the mass of Earth, is one of three that the team detected around a red dwarf star called Wolf 1061.

"It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface, and the middle planet, Wolf 1061c, sits within the 'Goldilocks' zone where it might be possible for liquid water -- and maybe even life -- to exist," says lead study author UNSW's Dr Duncan Wright.

"It is fascinating to look out at the vastness of space and think a star so very close to us -- a near neighbour -- could host a habitable planet.

"While a few other planets have been found that orbit stars closer to us than Wolf 1061, those planets are not considered to be remotely habitable," Dr Wright says.

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