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NASA's Kepler confirms first planet in habitable zone of Sun-like star

(Xinhua)

10:48, December 06, 2011

Kepler-22's star is a bit smaller than our sun, so its habitable zone is slightly closer in. The diagram shows an artist's rendering of the planet comfortably orbiting within the habitable zone, similar to where Earth circles the sun. Kepler-22b has a yearly orbit of 289 days. The planet is the smallest known to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It's about 2.4 times the size of Earth. (Image Source: NASA.gov)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone," a region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface, the U.S. space agency announced on Monday.


The newly-confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to Sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don't yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Two other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than Sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.

"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin, " said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at the NASA Headquarters in Washington. "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."

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elee at 2011-12-06183.39.42.*
Earth humans have too much to learn and study together, instead of tearing each other off the Earth.
  

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