The planet, dubbed Proxima d, was detected by astronomers using the in the “habitable zone” of a White Dwarf. A white dwarf is what stars like our Sun become after they have exhausted their nuclear fuel and are come to the end of their life. If their observations are confirmed, it would be a stunning breakthrough and the first time that a potentially life-supporting planet has been found orbiting such a star.
Professor Jay Farihi, from University College London, told BBC News: “This is the first time that anything has been seen in the habitable zone of a white dwarf.
“There is a possibility of life on another world orbiting it.”
The possible planet, which is is 117 light years away from Earth – which is said to be within reaching distance for humans.
It is thought to be 60 times closer to the star than our planet is to the Sun.
Lead author Joao Faria, said: “The discovery shows that our closest stellar neighbour seems to be packed with interesting new worlds, within reach of further study and future exploration.”
The star is already known to host two other planets.
Proxima b, which orbits the star every 11 days, has a mass comparable to that of Earth, and is within the habitable zone.
Proxima c is on a longer five-year orbit around the star.
And experts think it could spark a wave of similar discoveries.
Prof Farihi added: “Usually in astronomy, if we find one, it usually means that it’s common.”
The team used a state-of-the art spectrograph called ESPRESSO at ESO’s VLT.
This ‘wobble’ technique looks for changes in the star’s motion along the line of sight from Earth, and ESPRESSO can detect variations of just 10 centimetres per second.
Spanish astronomer Anglada-Escud added: “ESPRESSO is the new instrument which everyone wants to use and play with,.”