The first hab­it­able zone planet

What hap­pened: Ke­pler finds the first planet where liq­uid wa­ter could ex­ist When it hap­pened: De­cem­ber 2011

All About Space - - Kepler’s Best Bits -

De­cem­ber 2011 was a huge mo­ment in ex­o­planet sci­ence when NASA an­nounced

Ke­pler found the first con­firmed planet in the hab­it­able zone of an­other star. This is the re­gion in which tem­per­a­tures are not too hot or cold for wa­ter to ex­ist, mean­ing that liq­uid wa­ter could be present on the sur­face of a planet, and pos­si­bly life.

The planet was Ke­pler-22b, es­ti­mated to be about 2.4-times the size of Earth and lo­cated about 620 light years from us. It com­pleted an or­bit of its star ev­ery 289.9 days, with an av­er­age tem­per­a­ture ex­pected to be sim­i­lar to that of Earth.

Ini­tially the dis­cov­ery caused a huge amount of ex­cite­ment, with some sug­gest­ing it could be an ocean world that con­tained signs of life. To­day the true com­po­si­tion of the planet re­mains un­clear, with some sug­gest­ing it could be a gas planet with a rocky core – although the chances of it be­ing a ter­res­trial world have been ruled out.

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