A gigantic planet just far away from its sun to allow for liquid water -- and, by extension, life -- has been discovered by a team of scientists that includes faculty and researchers from U.C. Santa Cruz.
This planet is about 22 light years away. It's 4.5 times the size of Earth, and it orbits its own star every 28 days. In other words, it's not a place to be for those worried about advancing years.
The habitable zone is called the "Goldilocks region" for obvious reasons: it's just right -- not too cold and not too hot -- to allow for life.
NASA's Kepler mission stumbled upon this planet and many others, and UCSC astronomers Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera are on the discovery team, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
"The detection of this planet, this nearby and this soon, implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets," Vogt said in a UCSC press release.
This particular new planet, one of 61 confirmed new celestial bodies, circles one of a trio of stars that in turn orbit each other. The "host star" contains smaller amounts of the heavy elements - iron, carbon and silicon - than expected, widening the realm of possible places where habitable planets might be found, according to the newspaper.
You can hear Vogt speak on this and other weighty matters at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the UC Santa Cruz Music Center Recital Hall. It's free.