NASA’s Kepler confirms its first planet in habitable zone outside our solar system

 NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the “habitable zone,” the region around a star where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don’t yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets. Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Two other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than our sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.

“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Kepler’s results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA’s science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe.”

via NASA’s Kepler confirms its first planet in habitable zone outside our solar system.

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2 Responses to NASA’s Kepler confirms its first planet in habitable zone outside our solar system

  1. alfy says:

    There seemed to a lot more artificially generated excitement about this discovery than it really merits. No one has actually seen this planet; its presence is deduced from a reduction in its star’s light output due to occultation by the planet. Given that it is (?) 200 million light years away even getting a picture of it will present enormous problems. Is this a NASA PR exercise?

  2. Deskarati says:

    I think it’s actually about 600 light years away. So if we send them a question now we could get a discussion going with their answer back in the year 3211. That’s if anyone’s there to hear it.

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