The effort is part of a broader push to identify Earth-like worlds."We have to start thinking about these things as more than planetary objects. All of a sudden, this has become a topic not just for astronomers, but for planetary scientists and now climate scientists," said Anthony Del Genio, climate modeller who is leading the GISS effort.

The team's ultimate goal is to explore the concept of a habitable zone by mixing and matching some of the key factors that determine whether a planet can support life."In 15 or 20 years, we might get a spectrum of a planet that looks Earth-like, and then everyone will be out with their models trying to model that planet. I would like it to happen quicker -- but we need a big telescope," concluded James Kasting, atmospheric scientist at the Pennsylvania State University.

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