About 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus lives a star, which, though smaller and redder than the sun, has a planet that may look awfully familiar.

With a diameter just 10 percent bigger than Earth’s, the newly found world is the first of its size found basking in the benign temperature region around a parent star where water, if it exists, could pool in liquid form.

Scientists on the hunt for Earth's twin are focused on worlds that could support liquid surface water, which may be necessary to brew the chemistry of life.

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Statistically speaking, Earth-sized planets orbiting in stars’ so-called habitable zones -- not too far away for water to freeze, not too close for it to vaporize -- should be common, recent studies show.

But observations are difficult to come by. NASA’s Kepler space telescope spent four years staring at about 150,000 target stars looking for slight and repeated dips in their light caused by orbiting planets passing by, or transiting, relative to the telescope’s line of sight.

A planet the size of Earth positioned about as far from a host, sun-like star and as far away as Earth orbits the sun would block just 80- to 100 photons of starlight out of every million -- and do so only once every 365 days, notes astronomer Thomas Barclay, with the Kepler science team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

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An Earth-sized planet circling a smaller star is an easier target. The newly found world, designated Kepler-186f, obscures about 400 photons of starlight out of every million as it transits its parent star -- and repeats the cycle every 130 days.

“I wouldn’t say this is the ‘bingo’ planet, but this is really one of the major milestones on the road,” Barclay told Discovery News. “This isn’t an Earth twin, but perhaps it’s an Earth cousin.”

Artist's impression of NASA's Kepler space telescope that has been in orbit since 2009.NASA

Scientists need at least three transits -- plus follow-up observations by ground-based telescopes -- before an extrasolar planet is confirmed. Since the first planet beyond the solar system was discovered in 1996, astronomers have added nearly 1,800 to the list.

"Kepler-186f is significant because it is the first exoplanet that is the same temperature and the same size (well, ALMOST!) as the Earth,” David Charbonneau, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wrote in an email to Discovery News.

"Previously, the exoplanet most like Earth was Kepler-62f, but Kepler-186f is significantly smaller,” Charbonneau added.

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“Now we can point to a star and say, ‘There lies an Earth-like planet,’” he said.

Scientists continue to analysis archived Kepler data in hopes of finding true Earth twins. The telescope currently is sidelined by a positioning system problem.

Meanwhile, the Kepler-186 star, which hosts at least four more planets in addition to the strategically positioned and outermost 186f, will become the focus of sister science project that scans the skies for non-naturally occurring radio transmissions in a quest to find technically advanced extraterrestrial life.

The research is published in this week’s Science.