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Just over a week after astronomers boldly announced that they would discover an Earth twin elsewhere in the universe within the year, NASA's Kepler telescop spotted a pretty good candidate. Unglamorously named KOI 172.02 -- KOI stands for Kepler Object of Interest -- this planet is the most Earth-like planet astronomers have discovered yet.
The differences are slight. It's roughly 50 percent larger than Earth and orbits a star that closely resembles our own sun at a distance that would make the surface of the planet habitable. (The size makes it a "super Earth" rather than an "Earth twin.") With an 242-day long year, it's slightly closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun but otherwise enjoys all of the same ideal conditions as we do, as far as astronomers can tell. "This was very exciting because it's our fist habitable-zone super Earth around a sun-type star," said Natalia Batalha, a Kepler co-investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. "It's orbiting a star that's very much like our sun. Previously the ones we saw were orbiting other types of stars."
After the researchers analyzed the four months of data in this initial batch of readings from Kepler, they determined that 1.4 to 2.7 percent of all sunlike stars are expected to have Earthlike planets — ones that are between 0.8 and two times Earth's diameter and within the habitable zones of their stars.
"This means there are a lot of Earth analogs out there — two billion in the Milky Way galaxy," researcher Joseph Catanzarite, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told SPACE.com. "With that large a number, there's a good chance life and maybe even intelligent life might exist on some of those planets. And that's just our galaxy alone — there are 50 billion other galaxies.
Our Milky Way galaxy is swarming with tens of billions of habitable rocky planets not much bigger than Earth, European space scientists have discovered. Research with a giant telescope in Chile has found that there are probably around 100 of the so-called super-Earths in the Sun’s own immediate neighbourhood.
A Jupiter-sized planet known as PH2 b, discovered by citizen scientists participating in the Planet Hunters project, lies within its parent star's habitable zone. "This is just a first step toward finding a habitable world elsewhere," Ji Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University and the lead author of a paper about PH2 b, said in a news release. "Any moon around this newly discovered, Jupiter-sized planet might be habitable. It’s very similar to what was depicted in the movie ‘Avatar’ — the habitable moon Pandora around a giant planet, Polyphemus.”
The Kepler telescope works by tracking slight decreases in the amount of light coming from 160,000 target stars caused by a planet or planets passing by, or transiting, relative to the telescope's point of view. "You need very specific conditions to have liquid water. You can't have your planet too close to your star where it's too hot. You can't have it too far away for the planet conditions to be too cold. We're trying to find these planets in this very specific habitable zone," said Burke, who is with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.
Originally posted by TheProphetMark
It seems to be a slow moving disclosure happening all at once these days.
Originally posted by redtic
That's awesome! Now what do we do?..
I am of the opinion they are always way ahead of what they announce, so most likely they have already been eyeballing our twin for quite some time...
Originally posted by jonnywhite
There're lots of planets and lots of people and machines looking for them.
We found our first extrasolar planet in the 1990's, I believe.
It's like the exponential growth of computing.
Nothing conspiratorial about it.
BUT I doubt we've found earth. Just an earth-like planet. Big difference.
What I'm wondering is what're the odds of finding a planet similar to our own based on hte best evidence and how do these odds compare to the data we're uncovering?