A team of scientists on Monday said they have discovered three planets in a galaxy 39 light years away that might sustain life, AFP reported. They are similar in size to Earth and Venus, said the study, which was published in the journal Nature. The lead author of the paper, astrophysicist Michael Gillon from the University of Liège in Belgium said, “This is the first opportunity to find chemical traces of life outside our solar system.”

The planets revolve around a star described as an “ultracool dwarf”, meaning it is smaller than a regular star and has a lower effective temperature. The scientists believe they have a combination of characteristics that make them worthy of study – their size, the potential for habitation and their proximity to Earth, which could allow researchers to study their atmospheres through new technology. The study concluded that given all the factors, the planets might have temperate regions that could sustain liquid water, and thus life.

Co-author Emmanuel Liege, also from the University of Liège, said this was a “paradigm shift” in the search for life beyond Earth.