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Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone (Read 1153 times)
Hawklord
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Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
05. Dec 2011 at 23:51
 
NASA Telescope Confirms Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
SPACE.comBy Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Space.com | SPACE.com 6 hrs ago
 
This story was updated at 12:15 p.m. ET.
 
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star's habitable zone that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist and found more than 1,000 new explanet candidates, researchers announced today (Dec. 5).
 
The new finds bring the Kepler space telescope's total haul to 2,326 potential planets in its first 16 months of operation.These discoveries, if confirmed, would quadruple the current tally of worlds known to exist beyond our solar system, which recently topped 700.
 
The potentially habitable alien world, a first for Kepler, orbits a star very much like our own sun. The discovery brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own one which could conceivably harbor life, scientists said.
 
"We're getting closer and closer to discovering the so-called 'Goldilocks planet,'" Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said during a press conference today. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]
 
The newfound planet in the habitable zone is called Kepler-22b. It is located about 600 light-years away, orbiting a sun-like star.
 
Kepler-22b's radius is 2.4 times that of Earth, and the two planets have roughly similar temperatures. If the greenhouse effect operates there similarly to how it does on Earth, the average surface temperature on Kepler-22b would be 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius).  
 
Hunting down alien planets
 
The $600 million Kepler observatory launched in March 2009 to hunt for Earth-size alien planets in the habitable zone of their parent stars, where liquid water, and perhaps even life, might be able to exist.
 
Kepler detects alien planets using what's called the "transit method." It searches for tiny, telltale dips in a star's brightness caused when a planet transits or crosses in front of the star from Earth's perspective, blocking a fraction of the star's light.
 
The finds graduate from "candidates" to full-fledged planets after follow-up observations confirm that they're not false alarms. This process, which is usually done with large, ground-based telescopes, can take about a year.
 
The Kepler team released data from its first 13 months of operation back in February, announcing that the instrument had detected 1,235 planet candidates, including 54 in the habitable zone and 68 that are roughly Earth-size.
 
Of the total 2,326 candidate planets that Kepler has found to date, 207 are approximately Earth-size. More of them, 680, are a bit larger than our planet, falling into the "super-Earth" category. The total number of candidate planets in the habitable zones of their stars is now 48.
 
To date, just over two dozen of these potential exoplanets have been confirmed, but Kepler scientists have estimated that at least 80 percent of the instrument's discoveries should end up being the real deal.
 
More discoveries to come
 
The newfound 1,094 planet candidates are the fruit of Kepler's labors during its first 16 months of science work, from May 2009 to September 2010. And they won't be the last of the prolific instrument's discoveries.
 
"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin," Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
 
Mission scientists still need to analyze data from the last two years and on into the future. Kepler will be making observations for a while yet to come; its nominal mission is set to end in November 2012, but the Kepler team is preparing a proposal to extend the instrument's operations for another year or more.
 
Kepler's finds should only get more exciting as time goes on, researchers say.
 
"We're pushing down to smaller planets and longer orbital periods," said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead at Ames.
 
To flag a potential planet, the instrument generally needs to witness three transits. Planets that make three transits in just a few months must be pretty close to their parent stars; as a result, many of the alien worlds Kepler spotted early on have been blisteringly hot places that aren't great candidates for harboring life as we know it.
 
Given more time, however, a wealth of more distantly orbiting and perhaps more Earth-like exoplanets should open up to Kepler. If intelligent aliens were studying our solar system with their own version of Kepler, after all, it would take them three years to detect our home planet.
 
"We are getting very close," Batalha said. "We are homing in on the truly Earth-size, habitable planets."
 
You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter:
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Re: Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
Reply #1 - 06. Dec 2011 at 14:25
 
Shame about that factor of 2.4.
 
If the new planet has a rocky constituency similar to that of Earth, the surface gravity would then have to be about 2.4 times that of Earth. Sort of rules out Kepler-22b as a relaxing holiday destination - though it might be a good place to go for athletes to do intensive training.
 
Kepler-22b Boot Camp, anyone?
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Re: Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
Reply #2 - 07. Dec 2011 at 03:29
 
Quote from bob_32_116 on 06. Dec 2011 at 14:25:
Shame about that factor of 2.4.

If the new planet has a rocky constituency similar to that of Earth, the surface gravity would then have to be about 2.4 times that of Earth. Sort of rules out Kepler-22b as a relaxing holiday destination - though it might be a good place to go for athletes to do intensive training.

Kepler-22b Boot Camp, anyone?

 
I have been of the philosophy that if they find planets that have the perfect balance of Atmosphere and gravity in this so called Goldiocks Zone. That it would be perfect for the lifeforms that do live there so if humans can't survive it just might be perfect for those that inhabit kepler -22b (and who knows what they call there planet) we  give it the name  Kepler -22b Cool
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Re: Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
Reply #3 - 07. Dec 2011 at 08:46
 
not exactly close, is it?
 
that won't stop some companies though!
 
http://newsthump.com/2011/12/06/ryanair-to-offer-first-budget-flights-to-kepler- 22-b/  Wink
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Hawklord
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Re: Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
Reply #4 - 07. Dec 2011 at 19:08
 
Quote from arctangent on 07. Dec 2011 at 08:46:
not exactly close, is it?

that won't stop some companies though!

http://newsthump.com/2011/12/06/ryanair-to-offer-first-budget-flights-to-kepler- 22-b/ Wink

 
 Well then I guess that makes it more imperative for someone to Develop Warp drive capability and use Field propulsion instead of the ancient use of Liquid propulsion that we currently use.  
 
Stuff like this It's only a matter of time before they figure it out.  Cool
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Re: Nasa finds Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
Reply #5 - 08. Dec 2011 at 03:00
 
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