The planet, more than four times the mass of Earth, is one of three that the team detected around a red dwarf star called Wolf 1061.

"It is a particularly exciting find because all three planets are of low enough mass to be potentially rocky and have a solid surface, and the middle planet, Wolf 1061c, sits within the 'Goldilocks' zone where it might be possible for liquid water and maybe even life - to exist," said lead study author Duncan Wright, from University of New South Wales in Australia.

The three newly detected planets orbit the small, relatively cool and stable star about every 5, 18 and 67 days.

The larger outer planet falls just outside the outer boundary of the habitable zone and is also likely to be rocky, while the smaller inner planet is too close to the star to be habitable.

Small rocky planets like our own are now known to be abundant in our galaxy, and multi-planet systems also appear to be common.

An exception is Gliese 667Cc which lies 22 light years from Earth. It orbits a red dwarf star every 28 days and is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth.

The study will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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