Scientists are close to announcing the discovery of the first planet the size of the Earth, orbiting a star in the habitable zone.
Astronomer Thomas Barclay, from the NASA Ames Research Center in California, used data collected by the Kepler space telescope and discovered a system with five planets, the outermost of which rotate in the habitable zone of their star. This was reported in a message posted on Twitter by astronomers involved in the search for extraterrestrial life in Tucson, Arizona.
“The outer planet has a radius that is approximately 1, 1 times Earthly,” wrote Nick Ballering from the Graduate School of the University of Arizona and scientist Jesse Christiansen from the Ames Research Center on their Twitter accounts.
Comparative Kepler-62 f sizes
The host star has no name, but was identified as a dwarf M1, which is a small star that is dimmer than the Sun. This type of star, also known as a “red dwarf”, makes up about 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Until now, the most Earth-like planet is Kepler-62 f, which is 1, 4 times the size of Earth. Kepler-62 f receives about half the energy from its star, received by the Earth from our Sun, and has an orbital period of 267 days (compared to 365 days of the Earth).
The graphical representation of the Kepler-62C orbits is that the orbit around the star, the so-called “habitable zone”, is a place where the temperature allows water to be in liquid form.
Water is considered essential for life.
The Kepler telescope was launched in 2009 specifically to search for terrestrial planets outside the solar system.
In a Discovery News e-mail, Barclay declined to comment on his research until it was published in a scientific journal.