Our universe just got a little more interesting:
NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the “habitable zone,” the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.
The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don’t yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.
The rumors that Dennis Kucinich has already been “called home” to Kepler-22b are completely unfounded.
Here’s NASA’s cool rendering of the system.
There’s no way, right now, of knowing what this planet is like. It could be like Venus or Mars, incapable of supporting our kind of life. But give how (comparatively) easily Kepler is finding these things, they must be very common.
The day is coming when we will know just how common life is in our universe.