5 Facts About New Earth-Like Planet

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kepler 22-bWe've found an Earth-like planet! This is about the most exciting thing I've heard in a long time -- and for once it has nothing to do with a Kardashian or Dancing With the Stars. The planet is called Kepler 22-b, and it's in a galaxy far, far away -- 600 light years away to be exact.

I'm curious about everything we know about this planet so far! This is the first kind of planet we've ever discovered that could support life as we know it on Earth. So can we move there? How far away is it? What makes it able to support life? And what's with that name? Read on to find out everything you need to know about this thrilling discovery!

  1. It's too far away to visit. According to American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, "(With) our fastest spacecraft today, it would take something like 300,000 years to get there .... Probably even longer."   
  2. It's warm. Kepler 22-b is in a "habitable zone" of its solar system -- the "just right" distance from a star that makes that planet not too hot, and not too cold. The average temperature on Kepler 22-b is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which means water could exist in the form of liquid.
  3. It's bigger than Earth. At about 2.5 times the size of Earth, it could be a gassy planet that might not be so easy to live on. But it could have moons that would be more habitable -- kind of like Pandora, the fictional planet-orbiting moon in Avatar.
  4. It's named after a telescope. Kepler 22-b was discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, a telescope sent into space in 2009 to search for habitable planets. Kepler 22-b is named after the 22nd star the Kepler telescope discovered, and it's the first (b) planet discovered revolving around that star (for some reason, there are no "a" planets). The telescope was named after 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler.
  5. There may be more like it. The Kepler telescope has detected hundreds of other new (to us) planets. It looks like 48 of them may also be in the habitable zone, and 10 of them Earth-sized.

Are you surprised to hear there's another planet that could be similar to Earth? What else are you wondering about Kepler 22-b?


Image via NASA

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