Astronomers have discovered a planet almost the same size as Earth orbiting in its star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface, a new study says.
The presence of liquid water also indicates that the planet can support life.
This unknown world (Kepler-1649c) lies 300 light-years from Earth and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our sun.
Interestingly, of all the more than 2,000 exoplanets that have been discovered using Kepler space telescope observations, this exoplanet world is the most similar to Earth in both size and estimated temperature, NASA said.
“This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington DC.
Although NASA has stated that there are other exoplanets that are closer in size to Earth, and others may be closer to Earth in temperature, there is no other exoplanet that is closer to Earth in both of these values that is also in the habitable zone of its star system.
This newly discovered world is only 1.06 times the size of our planet. In addition, the amount of starlight it receives from its parent star is 75% of the amount of light Earth receives from our Sun, which means that the temperature of an exoplanet could also be the same as ours.
But unlike the Earth, it revolves around a red dwarf. This type of star is known for stellar flares that can make a planet’s environment difficult for any potential life.
Scientists discovered the planet while looking at old images from the Kepler Space Telescope, which the agency removed in 2018. Even though NASA’s Kepler mission ended in 2018 due to running out of fuel, scientists continue to make discoveries by studying the information Kepler sent back to Earth.
“The more data we get, the more signs we see that potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanets are common around these stars,” said study lead author Andrew Vanderburgh, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.