Earth size, habitable zone planet found hidden in NASA Kepler dataChristian Fernsby ▼ | April 20, 2020
A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth size exoplanet orbiting in its star's habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.
While previous searches with a computer algorithm misidentified it, researchers reviewing Kepler data took a second look at the signature and recognized it as a planet.
Out of all the exoplanets found by Kepler, this distant world - located 300 light-years from Earth - is most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature.
This newly revealed world is only 1.06 times larger than our own planet.
Also, the amount of starlight it receives from its host star is 75% of the amount of light Earth receives from our Sun meaning the exoplanet's temperature may be similar to our planet's as well.
But unlike Earth, it orbits a red dwarf.
Though none have been observed in this system, this type of star is known for stellar flare-ups that may make a planet's environment challenging for any potential life.
"This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
"The data gathered by missions like Kepler and our Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will continue to yield amazing discoveries as the science community refines its abilities to look for promising planets year after year."
There is still much that is unknown about Kepler-1649c, including its atmosphere, which could affect the planet's temperature.
Current calculations of the planet's size have significant margins of error, as do all values in astronomy when studying objects so far away.
But based on what is known, Kepler-1649c is especially intriguing for scientists looking for worlds with potentially habitable conditions. ■