2 new planets discovered via NASA Kepler space telescope, same sizes as Earth

By on Dec 22, 2011 in Astronomy, Science, United States, World Comments

Updated: January 27, 2012 7:10 p.m.

Read 11 new planetary systems with 26 confirmed planets discovered by NASA Kepler space telescope

Two new Earth-sized planets namely Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f were recently discovered via the NASA Kepler space telescope, and were detected outside our solar system.

Artist’s sketch of the 2 new planets, Kepler-20e and
Kepler-20f, sizes being compared to Venus and Earth

Image Credit: NASA.gov

According to a post at NASA.gov on Tuesday, December 20, 2011, the 2 new planets were the first planets with the same sizes as Earth ever discovered in another solar system.

As noted by NASA, astronomers used a computer program called Blender to validate Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, with the software running simulations to help rule out other astrophysical phenomena being concealed as a planet.

Apparently, both planets are notably very close to their stars to be in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface; but are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our sun.

“The primary goal of the Kepler mission is to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone,” Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“This discovery demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we are able to detect them.” Fressin added, who is also the lead author of a new study published in the journal Nature that day.

For their sizes, Kepler-20e is a bit smaller than Venus, measuring 0.87 times the radius of Earth while Kepler-20f is slightly bigger than Earth, measuring 1.03 times its radius.

Kepler-20e orbits its parent star every 6.1 days, which means that the planet is very hot, being estimated to reach over 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, and is more than enough to melt glass.

On the other hand, Kepler-20f orbits its parent star every 19.6 days and its surface was said to have approximately 800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the same as an average day temperature on the planet Mercury.

These 2 new planets, which are being thought to be rocky, are sitting in a five-planet system called Kepler-20, about 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, having their host star smaller than that of our sun.

Earlier this month, NASA revealed the discovery of a new planet called Kepler-22b, which was described as located in a ‘habitable zone’, since water could exist, and is approximately 2.4 times the radius of the Earth.

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