New planet Kepler-22b discovered may be the next Earth since water could exist, NASA says

By on Dec 9, 2011 in Astronomy, Science, United States Comments

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

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

The recently discovered new planet called Kepler-22b may be the next Earth and was described located in a “habitable zone,” since water could exist, which is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth.

Diagram of the new planet Kepler-22, comparing
to Earth’s own solar system

Image Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

According to report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on its official website on Monday, December 5, 2011, the new planet has been confirmed, which is located 600 light-years away from Earth.

As noted by NASA, scientists have not yet confirmed if the planet Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, liquid and gaseous composition, but its discovery is a step closer in discovering planets like the Earth.

“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” Kepler program scientist Douglas Hudgins was quoted at NASA Headquarters in Washington, noting that the mission also has discovered over 1,000 new planet candidates.

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.” Hudgins added.

“Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet,” William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, was quoted as saying.

“The first transit was captured just three days after we declared the spacecraft operationally ready. We witnessed the defining third transit over the 2010 holiday season.” Borucki added, who led the NASA team that discovered Kepler-22b.

NASA emphasized that the new planet is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun, with its orbit of 290 days around a sun-like star is quite similar to that of Earth.

The Kepler-22b discovery is one of the 54 habitable zone new planet candidates reported in February 2011, but is the first one to be confirmed, with the report also to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Later on the same month, 2 new planets, Kepler-20E and Kepler-20F, were discovered by NASA Kepler space telescope outside our solar system, and were noted to have the same sizes as Earth.

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