Kepler-22b is the first discovered planet with a distance from a star where temperature will permit the existence of liquid water.
The discovery of Kepler-22b means that scientists one step closer to finding a planet that could possibly become the second home for mankind.
“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” Douglas Hudgins, program scientist of Kepler said. “Kepler’s results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA’s science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe.”
Bt the way, spacecraft Kepler now has a long list of 2,326 possible planet detections, 207 of which are similar to Earth in size and 680 are “super Earth” sized (i.e. up to about 10 times larger than our planet).
Kepler-22b has also some characteristics which are typical for Earth: the temperature of the planet is about 72 degrees Fahrenheit and its radius is 2.4 times Earth’s.
The planet completely orbits its star, which remains our sun, every 290 days, just 75 days shy of an Earth year.
Moreover, last week, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory revealed some information concerning the discovery of Kepler-21b, a planet with a radius 1.6 times Earth’s.
But unlike Kepler-21b, which is only about 3.7 million miles away from its sun and is therefore a scorching 2,960 degrees Fahrenheit, Kepler-22b is about 79 million miles from its sun, coming in at a pleasant 72 degrees.
Well, NASA announced that it’s not yet clear whether Kepler-22b is composed or rock, gas or liquid.
The Kepler spacecraft is often used to discover some planets by analyzing extremely faint dips in light from distant stars.
These “dips” is observed each time when the planet passes between the Kepler and its sun, therefore obstructing the star’s light. So, to confirm the planet scientists must observe the celestial body orbit its sun about three times.
Bill Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Centre, said, “We have now got good planet confirmation with Kepler 22b. We are certain that it is in the habitable zone and if it has a surface it ought to have a nice temperature.”
After Kepler-22B takes 290 days to orbit its sun, it required about three Earth years for scientists to confirm that it was a planet.
Steve Howell, a scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center a member of the Kepler team, told reported that scientists first noticed the a drop in light only days after Kepler was launched in 2009.
“We were just real lucky,” Howell said in his statement. “We saw the first hint of this three days after we started doing science operations right after launch.”
As CNN reports, the Kepler spacecraft have led to the identification of 2,326 planet candidates since its mission began.
But the most thrilling discoveries are expected to be made. “It’s tremendously exciting,” Howell said, adding that Kepler keeps on finding planets more and more like Earth.
“We’re moving out to orbital periods that are nearly and equal to the Earth, and that means very soon we’re going to be finding [planets] very near the earth, what we’d call true earth analogs. We’ll be there. We’ll be there probably within a year, very easily.” [Via Huff Post and The Telegraph]