NASA has found a new planet outside our solar system that’s eerily similar to Earth in key aspects.
Scientists say the temperature on the surface of Kepler-22b, as it’s named, is about a comfy 72 degrees and is about 600 light years away. Its star is very similar to our sun and the planet likely has water and land. It was found in the middle of the habitable zone, making it the best potential target found for life yet.
The discovery announced Monday was made by NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting telescope, which discovered more than 1,000 planet candidates earlier this year doubling the previously known amount. This is the first time Kepler confirmed a planet outside our solar system in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold habitable zone.
Watch primary investigator Bill Borucki explain more about the potentially Earth-like planet:
“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist, in the NASA press release. “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.”
Twice before astronomers have announced a planet found in that zone, but neither was as promising. One was later disputed; the other is on the hot edge of the zone.
Check out this CBS News report that also includes information on NASA’s recently discovered massive black holes:
The Kepler telescope discovers planets and planet candidates by tracking changes in brightness that happen when the potential planet passes in front of a star, or “transits”. Kepler requires at least three transits to verify a signal as a planet, according to the press release.
Kepler is also credited with the recent finding of a real-life Tatooine planet.
Watch the full NASA press announcement of the recent confirmation the habitable nature of Kepler-22b:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.