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 distance could allow liquid water to exist,researchers announced today yesterday.
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.
This find is a first for Kepler and it 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]
“This is a phenomenal discovery in the course of human history,” Geoff Marcy of University of California, Berkeley, one of the pioneers of planet-hunting outside our solar system, said in an email. “This discovery shows that we Homo sapiens are straining our reach into the universe to find planets that remind us of home. We are almost there.”
The new found planet in the habitable zone is called Kepler-22b. It is located about 600 light-years away, orbiting a sun-like star.
The Washington Post contributed to this report: