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First Earth-size planets discovered beyond our solar system

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December 21, 2011

Artist's rendering of Kepler-20e (Image: NASA)

Artist's rendering of Kepler-20e (Image: NASA)

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NASA has discovered the first Earth-size planets outside of our solar system. The discovery was made as part of NASA's Kepler mission and involves the discovery of two planets currently named after the project: Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f.

If the Kepler name sounds familiar, that's because NASA also recently announced the discovery of Kepler-22b, the most Earth-like planet discovered to date. Kepler 22b is orbiting a star similar to our sun, and is capable of possessing liquid water, an essential feature for life to exist on a planet.

Unlike Kepler 22b, Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f are too close to their star to have water, and are thought to be uninhabitable.

According to NASA, Kepler-20e orbits its star/sun every 6.1 days and Kepler-20f every 19.6 days. These short orbital periods mean the surface of the planets are exceptionally hot. Kepler-20f, at 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427ºC), is comparable to Mercury in our solar system. The surface temperature of Kepler-20e, at more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit (760ºC), is hot enough that it could melt glass - not exactly a place you'd want to spend a weekend.

Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f are the fourth and fifth planets discovered as part of the Kepler solar system. Both are thought to be rocky, with Kepler-20e about the size of Venus (.87x Earth's size), with Kepler-20f measuring in slightly larger than Earth (1.03x Earth's size).

Kepler-20e and Kepler 20-f are both very similar to Earth in size (Image: NASA)

"The primary goal of the Kepler mission is to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone," said Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., lead author of a new study published in the journal Nature. "This discovery demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we are able to detect them."

What do you think? Are there other Earth-like planets out there?

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5 Comments

"...and is capable of possessing liquid water, an essential feature for life to exist on a planet."

No, what you mean is that water is essential for humans to exist. There could be thousands of species out there that need no water and are nothing like us.

And yet...they live.

Jeff Chernoff
25th December, 2011 @ 09:46 am PST

See for yourself how vast the universe is. Time will come that we can see all these planets with our naked eyes. Let's all be aware of the fast changes in our solar system. It's exciting! Amazing!

Elsa Cordova
15th January, 2012 @ 06:06 am PST

All of this is very interesting but what precisely does it do in terms of improving life on THIS planet?

Stargazing is something we can do when our own planet is not about to implode under the weight of stupidity bearing down upon it

Aloysius Bear
20th February, 2014 @ 01:12 am PST

Actually there was an experiment conducted to create non carbon based life which was successful. It was posted here a while ago.

Andrew Rilliet-Martin
10th March, 2014 @ 03:40 pm PDT

Although this sounds great and all, because we can't seem to find an Asian 777 aircraft in the Indian Ocean here, I have my doubts we can see and predict life 600 light years away.

Luan To
29th April, 2014 @ 11:33 am PDT
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