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Los Angeles - Nasa's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a mission designed to comb the heavens for exoplanets, has discovered its first potentially habitable world outside the solar system, according to a Nasa release on Wednesday. 

 The new planet orbits a star named GJ 357, an M-type dwarf about one-third the Sun's mass and size and about 40 percent cooler that our star. The system is located 31 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. 

In February, TESS cameras caught the star dimming slightly every 3.9 days, revealing the presence of a transiting exoplanet - a world beyond the solar system - that passes across the face of its star during every orbit and briefly dims the star's light. 

In a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team led by Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute, models the conditions under which the planet - discovered in early 2019 - could sustain life. 


"This is exciting, as this is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbor life - uncovered with help from TESS, our small, mighty mission with a huge reach," said Kaltenegger. 

An illustration of Nasa's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which prowls for planets around the closest, brightest stars. These newfound worlds eventually will become prime targets for future telescopes looking to tease out any signs of life. Picture: Nasa via AP
As this super-Earth exoplanet is more massive than earth, Kaltenegger said this discovery will provide insight into Earth's heavyweight planetary cousins.

Xinhua