Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Astronomers confirm the existence of an Earth-like planet

By Kev Hedges
Dec 5, 2011 in Science

Astronomers have confirmed the exoplanet Kepler 22-b as Earth-like and within the so-called "Goldilocks Zone", a habitable world orbiting its star at a distance not too far away as to be cold, nor too close to be too hot to support life.
The planet lies around 600-light years away from Earth and is just under two-and-a-half times bigger than our planet. Kepler 22-b, formerly a "candidate" planet had to wait for confirmation after its third orbit around its star. The Kepler Space Telescope is so sensitive it can detect planets when they cross (in front of) its host star. During the conference when the announcement was made astronomers also revealed they had seen 1,094 new candidate planets. Some of these exoplanets may well be upgraded from "candidate" to "confirmed" just like Kepler 22-b has.
The exoplanet offers best hope yet for a new Earth - or Earth 2.0, astronomers believe it to harbour water and land but are not sure if it is made of rock, gas or liquid. Nasa also said the exoplanets require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.
The Kepler Space Telescope looks at more than 155,000 stars and has so far found 2,326 candidate planets, reports the BBC. When the third pass of Kepler 22-b was made, William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at Nasa's Ames Research Centre, said:
Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet, 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.
Any hope that citizens of planet Earth may one day travel and live on Kepler 22-b would be dashed by its sheer distance of 600-light years. It could be a millennium before we may colonise such a world.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/315610#ixzz1h5xvB5J0
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