Astronomers Discover Most Earth-Like Planet Yet, And We’re Already Packing Our Bags
The most “Earth-like” planet has finally been found, and it’s 300 light-years away.
A new study published in The Astrophysical Letters Journal revealed a potentially habitable exoplanet (a planet outside of the Milky Way) that has a similar size and surface temperature as Earth, and is the most Earth-like planet to date.
The exoplanet, called Kepler-1649c, is 1.06 times larger than Earth and has about the same surface temperature as earth as the planet gets 75 percent the amount of light from its star compared to Earth’s light from the sun.
It’s also situated just far enough from its red dwarf that it’s possible for liquid water to exist on the planet—and with water comes life and the ability to support it. Kepler-1649c’s red dwarf star is smaller and cooler than the sun and much closer to its planets, but Kepler-1649c is still located in the “habitable zone” of its star (meaning far enough to support liquid water).
Kepler-1649c can complete its orbit in only 19.5 Earth days. That’s one very fast year.
Considering the exoplanet’s proximity to its star, it’s possible that the planet could experience radiation flares. Astronomers also believe that there are about three planets in this solar system.
Kepler-1649c compared to Earth
NASA came up with an illustration of the exoplanet's possible surface, and it looks like a scene straight out of Star Wars or Dune.
Kepler-1649c's surface illustrated by Daniel Rutter
A Second Earth
Before it was retired in 2018, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovered thousands of planets, including more than 10 Earth-sized exoplanets, but this new discovery might be the closest thing to Earth 2.0.
“There are other exoplanets estimated to be closer to Earth in size, such as TRAPPIST-1f and, by some calculations, Teegarden c. Others may be closer to Earth in temperature, such as TRAPPIST-1d and TOI 700d,” stated NASA on its website. “But there is no other exoplanet that is considered to be closer to Earth in both of these values that also lies in the habitable zone of its system.”
Oddly enough, Kepler-1649c was initially overlooked because of a mistake in a computer algorithm. It was only by chance that astronomers decided to give it a second look, and found an exoplanet hidden in the archival data of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.
"If we hadn't looked over the algorithm's work by hand, we would have missed it," said Andrew Vanderburg, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin who helped author the study.
"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.
If only there was a way to fly there now.