Hunt for aliens gets boost after discovery of new planets able to host life

THE hunt for ET could pinpoint life in the next two or three years following the discovery of a new class of planet.

Experts say there are a host of hot, ocean-covered worlds with hydrogen-rich atmospheres between 35 and 150 light years away — close by astronomical standards.

These “Hycean” planets all orbit red dwarf stars, are up to 2.6 times larger than Earth and have temperatures of up to nearly 200C.

But they could still host tiny creatures similar to those in some of Earth’s most extreme aquatic environments.

Astronomers at Cambridge University have now identified a “sizeable sample” for further investigation.

Signs of life could be picked up by a new generation of telescopes, such as the orbiting James Webb Space Telescope which is due to be launched towards the end of this year.

Dr Nikku Madhusudhan told The Astrophysical Journal: “When we’ve been looking for various molecular signatures, we’ve been focusing on planets similar to Earth, which is a reasonable place to start.

“But Hycean planets offer a better chance.”

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