Planets that could support life are 'in our own backyard'
Dressing identified 95 planetary candidates orbiting red dwarf stars. This implied that at least 60 per cent of such stars have planets smaller than Neptune. However, most weren't quite the right size or temperature to be considered truly Earth-like.
Three planetary candidates were both warm and approximately Earth-sized. Statistically, this means that six per cent of all red dwarf stars should have an Earth-like planet.
"We now know the rate of occurrence of habitable planets around the most common stars in our galaxy," said co-author David Charbonneau.
"That rate implies that it will be significantly easier to search for life beyond the solar system than we previously thought," Charbonneau said in a statement.
Our Sun is surrounded by a swarm of red dwarf stars. About 75 per cent of the closest stars are red dwarfs. Since 6 per cent of those should host habitable planets, the closest Earth-like world is likely to be just 13 light-years away.
The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.