NASA Discovers New Earth-like Exoplanet

Published on April 20, 2020

NASA has discovered an Earth-like exoplanet, thanks to hidden early Kepler data. According to CNET, usage of the Kepler Space Telescope stopped in 2018. However, scientists are gathering observations it made during its search for planets beyond the solar system. This new exoplanet, called Kepler-1649c, was found 300 light-years from Earth. NASA reports that it is the “most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature” out of all the exoplanets found by Kepler. Writer, Amanda Kooser states that the exoplanet resides in its star’s habitable zone, also known as the area where it’s possible for water to subsist.

Nasa’s Feature Findings

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institution of Technology states that the new world is only 1.06 times larger than planet Earth. In addition, the amount of starlight that it gets from its star is 75% of the light Earth gets from the Sun. The article indicates that, in other words, the exoplanet’s temperature may be like our planet’s as well. However, opposite to Earth, Kepler-1649c orbits a red dwarf. Despite the planet being in the star’s habitable zone, it is also known that a red dwarf is prone to stellar flare-ups that may challenge a planet’s environment for potential life.

Meaning Of A Second Earth?

Aside from what has been recorded, not much else is known about Kepler-1649c’s atmosphere. CNN explains that another Venus-like planet similar in size orbits the red dwarf star closer. Nevertheless, the discovery does offer some hope. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, states that:

“This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found. The data gathered by missions like Kepler and our Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will continue to yield amazing discoveries as the science community refines its abilities to look for promising planets year after year.”

The planet is categorized as “rocky.” Rocky planets with red dwarfs are of “astrobiological interest.” However, astrobiologists need more information about it to calculate if its environment qualifies to sustain life. Regardless, Kepler-1649c is especially interesting for astronomers searching for worlds with potentially habitable conditions.

There Have Been Other Ones.

USA Today reiterates that even though NASA said that there are other exoplanets closer to Earth in size and temperature, there “is no other exoplanet that’s closer to Earth in both of these values that also lies in the habitable zone of its system.” However, there have been other exoplanets regarded as closest to Earth, such a Proxima Centauri. The object is located 4.2 light-years from our planet. Nevertheless, while Astronomy believes in the existence of rogue planets closer than Proxima, scientists are still willing to bet it all in Kepler-1649c.

In addition, based on mentioned characteristics, there are other exoplanets who match Earth’s descriptions. Some are believed to be equivalent to Earth in size, like TRAPPIST-1f and Teegarden c. While others are similar to Earth in temperature, such as TRAPPIST-1d and TOI 700d.  But when it comes to Kepler, no other Earth-like exoplanet has been found to have both of these, while also being in the habitable zone of its system, according to The Weather Channel.

There Might Be A Third

According to AZFamily, evidence suggests the possibility of a third planet in the system. Researchers haven’t found it yet, however. They believe this due to Kepler-1649 and Earth’s orbital resonance. Ashley Strickland writes that “their orbits line up in a stable ratio.” She also explains that for every nine times Kepler-1649c orbits its star, the closest planet completes four rounds. There is the possibility for another planet to exist in between the two.

Argenis Ovalles is an Editorial Intern at Grit Daily. He currently writes at Vocal Media and Theater Pizzazz.

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