December 6, 2011 by staff
Earth’s Twin, The first confirmed planet that could be “Earth’s twin” seems to have a lot going for it. It apparently has: a comfy 21 C surface temperature; a rocky surface; an ocean; a sun to orbit; a position smack in the middle of the habitable “Goldilocks” zone in relation to that sun (neither too hot nor too cold).
All this is sheer scientific speculation about the planet called Kepler-22b, but it’s enough to make NASA celebrate.
“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA’s Washington headquarters.
“I think there are two things that are really exciting about Kepler-22b,” said Natalie Batalha, the deputy science team leader at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “One is that it’s right in the middle of this habitable zone.
“The second thing that’s really exciting is it’s orbiting a star very, very similar to our own sun. This is a solaranlogue, almost a solar twin, very similar to our own sun and you’ve got a planet 2.4 times the size of the Earth right smack in the habitable zone.”
Why would a planet 600 light years away, about which almost nothing is really known and has only been “discovered” by shadows passing in front of a distant sun generate such excitement?
Because it validates the search and gives NASA reason — and funding — to keep going.
“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,” said Hudgins.
This spring, observation will begin from a telescope in the Canary Islands to try to determine what Kepler-22b is made of: gas, rock or liquid.
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