Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kepler 22-b: Earth-like planet confirmed

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the "habitable zone" around a star not unlike our own.

As candidates for planets similar to Earth are confirmed, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) has a narrower focus for its ongoing hunt.

"This is a superb opportunity for Seti observations," said Jill Tarter, the director of the Center for Seti Research at the Seti Institute.

The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C.

It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours - an "Earth 2.0".

However, the team does not yet know if Kepler 22-b is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid.

During the conference at which the result was announced, the Kepler team also said that it had spotted some 1,094 new candidate planets - nearly doubling the telescope's haul of potential far-flung worlds.

Kepler 22-b was one of 54 exoplanet candidates in habitable zones reported by the Kepler team in February, and is just the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes.

More of these "Earth 2.0" candidates are likely to be confirmed in the near future, though a redefinition of the habitable zone's boundaries has brought that number down to 48. Ten of those are Earth-sized.

more > BBC News - Kepler 22-b: Earth-like planet confirmed

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