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Kepler 22b, the latest discovery of NASA marks the best candidate yet for a life-bearing world outside our solar system. It is 600 light years away from the Earth. Kepler 22b continues to stay in breaking news all over the world since its announcement. It is named on the NASA’s Kepler space telescope which was responsible for spying it.
“It’s right in the middle of the habitable zone,” said Natalie Batahla, a Kepler scientist, referring to the narrow, balmy band of space around any star where water can be liquid. “The other exciting thing is that it orbits a star very, very similar to our own sun.”
Kepler-22b lies in Goldilocks zone, which is the band of distance away from a star which could allow liquid water. It circles a star that could be the twin of our sun and at just about the same distance. The planet’s radius is roughly 2.4 times the radius of Earth The planet’s year of 290 days is even close to ours. It likely has water and rock.
Natalie Batalha, the Kepler deputy science chief says, “It’s so exciting to imagine the possibilities.” The planet was originally discovered on Kepler’s third day of science operations in mid-2009.
The only worry of scientists is the planet’s size being too large for life to exist on the surface. The planet is about 2.4 times the size of Earth. Its mass is nearly 322k times the mass of Earth. It could be more like the gas-and-liquid Neptune with only a rocky core and mostly ocean.
So far the Kepler telescope has spotted 2,326 candidate planets outside our solar system with 139 of them potentially habitable ones. Even though the confirmed Kepler-22b is a bit big, it is still smaller than most of the other candidates. It is closest to Earth in size, temperature and star than either of the two previously announced planets in the zone.
Kepler-22b has a yearly orbit of 289 days. It is still not clear whether the planet has atmosphere or not. Scientists estimate that in the absence of an atmosphere, the equilibrium temperature would be about -11°C. If the atmosphere provides a greenhouse effect similar in magnitude to the one on Earth, the planet would have an average surface temperature of 22 °C (72°F).
When astronomers look for life elsewhere they’re talking about everything ranging from microbes to advanced intelligence that can be looking back at us. So, the excitement continues and everything depends on further research. Just hope for the best!