A new planet was discovered 600 light years away outside the solar system. Astronomers say it’s Earth-like and might have a “habitable zone” surface with a temperature averaging around 72 Fahrenheit degrees (22 C). The new planet was discovered by the Kepler space telescope and is called Kepler-22b.
Natalie Batalha, Kepler scientist told USA Today, “It is right smack in the middle of the habitable zone.”
Kepler investigator, Geoff Marcy of the University of California-Berkeley said, “This is a phenomenal discovery in the course of human history. Kepler 22b is the smallest, most nearly Earth-size, planet ever found in the lukewarm zone around another sun where life could thrive.”
At a news conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California, Natalie Batalha said, “We don’t know anything about the planets between Earth-size and Neptune-size because in our solar system we have no examples of such planets. We don’t know what fraction are going to be rocky, what fraction are going to be water worlds, what fraction are ice worlds. We have no idea until we measure one and see.”
The new planet, Kepler-22b has an atmosphere similar to Earth. It’s about 2.4 times the radius of Earth and could have water on it’s surface, the number one thing for human existence. There will be follow-up studies done to determine if the new planet is a gas like Neptune, or a solid like Earth.
Reported from USA Today, “Launched in 2009, the $591 million Kepler space telescope has detected more than 2,000 possible planets observed among about 150,000 stars within 3,000 light years of Earth along the “Orion spur” of our Milky Way galaxy. Kepler 22b’s discovery caps a half-decade of astronomers searching for a “Goldilocks” planet — not too hot or not too cold to harbor oceans on its surface, like Earth. Liquid water is considered key for development of life.”
Privately funded astronomers are part of a project known as SETI, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and are scanning stars for radio signals. Jill Tarter, director of the SETI Institute in Mountain View said, “As soon as we find a different, a separate, an independent example of life somewhere else, we’re going to know that it’s ubiquitous throughout the universe.”