Astronomers have found evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-size planet 122 light-years from Earth—the first time water has been identified on a planet that small, despite several attempts.

The discovery offers new hope in the search for planets that could sustain life, astronomers report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“It’s a fantastic observation,” says Knicole Colon, an astronomer at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a National Geographic Young Explorer, who was not involved in the research. “It opens up a whole new regime in our attempt to understand how exoplanets form and what they’re made of.”

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