Kepler Planet Confirmed – Kepler is the word buzzing astronomers today, after NASA confirmed that a planet is in the Goldilocks Zone. They are describing it as “Earth’s Twin” because it circles a similar sun as ours. tted a planet that circles a similar sun as ours. In fact, it’s location is smack in the middle of what astronomers call the Goldilocks zone. The zone is a hard to find place that is not too hot, not too cold, where water, which is essential for life, does not freeze or boil.
The Kepler planet has a shopping mall-like surface temperature of near 72 degrees, scientists say. It seems to be the ideal place for life, except for one hitch, it is a bit too big.
The planet’s confirmation was announced Monday by NASA along with other discoveries by its Kepler telescope, which was launched on a planet-hunting mission in 2009.
“This is a phenomenal discovery in the course of human history,” Geoff Marcy of University of California, Berkeley, one of the pioneers of planet-hunting outside Earth’s solar system, said in an email. “This discovery shows that we Homo sapiens are straining our reach into the universe to find planets that remind us of home. We are almost there.”
The new planet, named Kepler-22b, has key aspects it shares with Earth. It circles a star that could be the twin of Earth’s sun and at just about the same distance. The planet’s year of 290 days is even close to Earth’s. It probably has water and rock.
The only trouble is the planet’s a bit big for life to exist on the surface. The planet is about 2.4 times the size of Earth. It could be more like the gas-and-liquid Neptune with only a rocky core and mostly ocean.
“It’s so exciting to imagine the possibilities,” said Natalie Batalha, the Kepler deputy science chief.
Floating on that “world completely covered in water” could be like being on an Earth ocean and “it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that life could exist in such an ocean,” Batalha said in a phone interview.
So far the Kepler telescope has spotted 2,326 candidate planets outside Earth’s solar system with 139 of them potentially habitable ones. Even though the confirmed Kepler-22b is a bit big, it is smaller than most of the other candidates. It is closest to Earth in size, temperature and star than either of the two previously announced planets in the zone.