Kepler 22-b: The future home for mankind outside solar system?

Kepler

A diagram comparing our own solar system to Kepler 22-b, a star system containing the first “habitable zone” planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission.

Astronomers have confirmed the discovery of an Earth-like planet which they say could be a potential future home for mankind outside the solar system.

The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22 degree Celsius. It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours — an “Earth 2.0”, says a team at NASA.

The new planet, confirmed by the astronomers using the US space agency’s Kepler telescope, contains both land and water and has the right atmosphere to potentially support life, the media reported.

One of the key criteria for a planet to be habitable is that it remains roughly the right distance from its main star to be neither too cold nor too hot. And, the team says that the Kepler 22-b is in the “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own.

The team, however, does not yet know if Kepler 22-b, where a year lasts 290 days and first spotted two years ago, is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid.“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,” Bill Borucki, Kepler space telescope’s principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Centre, said.

There are now three planets outside the system, known as exoplanets, which experts believe could potentially be colonised by future generations.

In May, French astronomers identified Gliese 581d, pronounced “gleezer”, which is far closer at around 20 light years away. It is about six times the mass of Earth and is one of a family of at least six planets.

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