The nearest Earthlike planets could be just 13 light-years away, putting them in our cosmic "back yard", astronomers have claimed.
Six per cent of red dwarfs, the most common stars in our galaxy, have Earth-sized planets which could be habitable, according to data from Nasa's Kepler space telescope. On this basis, experts from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics calculated that the closest Earthlike world is probably as close as 13 light-years to Earth.
Courtney Dressing, a graduate student who led the study, said: "We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earthlike planet. Now we realise another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted."
Red dwarfs, which are smaller and cooler than our Sun, are not visible from Earth with the naked eye but make up 75 per cent of the stars in our galaxy, numbering about 75 billion.