The most Earth-like world yet detected beyond our solar system has been discovered, scientists say.
With a radius that is just 1.5 times that of Earth, the potential planet is a so-called “super-Earth,” meaning it is just slightly larger than the Earth. The candidate planet orbits a star similar to the sun at a distance that falls within the “habitable zone” — the region where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Scientists say the planet, if confirmed, could be a prime candidate to host alien life.
“This was very exciting because it’s our fist habitable-zone super Earth around a sun-type star,” astronomer Natalie Batalha, a Kepler co-investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said Tuesday (Jan. 8) here at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
The find could be the closest so far to an Earth twin beyond the solar system.
“It’s a big deal,” astrophysicist Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told SPACE.com. “It’s definitely a good candidate for life.”
The possible planet is called KOI 172.02 (KOI stands for Kepler Object of Interest, a designation assigned to all planet candidates found by the telescope until they are confirmed as planets). The discovery was announced at the meeting Monday (Jan. 7) by Christopher Burke of the SETI Institute as part of a batch of 461 new planet candidates found by Kepler.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they
recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it’s the
too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to
the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
Double-Star Systems Can Be Dangerous for Exoplanets | Space.com
Alien planets born in widely separated two-star systems face a grave danger of being booted into interstellar space, a new study suggests.
Exoplanets circling a star with a far-flung stellar companion — worlds that are part of “wide binary” systems — are susceptible to violent and dramatic orbital disruptions, including outright ejection, the study found.
Such effects are generally limited to sprawling planetary systems with at least one distantly orbiting world, while more compact systems are relatively immune. This finding, which observational evidence supports, should help astronomers better understand the structure and evolution of alien solar systems across the galaxy, researchers said.