Feeds

NASA finds first Earth-sized planets outside the solar system

Unfortunately, they're hellishly hot ...

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA's Kepler mission, tasked with the illustrious mission of finding an Earth 2.0 for humankind, has located the first Earth-sized planets orbiting a star outside our solar system.

Artist's concept of Kepler 20e

Artist's concept of Kepler 20e. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

The two worlds, Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f, are too close to their parent star (their sun-equivalent) to be in the habitable zone - where liquid water could exist on their surfaces - but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed in an Earth-type location.

Earlier this month, Kepler spotted the first Earth candidate in a habitable zone, Kepler 22b, but that rock is 2.4 times the size of our planet.

Both 20e and 20f, which are thought to be rocky worlds, are the next milestone because they're the right size.

Unfortunately, due to their proximity to their system's parent star and their short orbital periods - 20e orbits the parent star every 6.1 days and 20f every 19.6 - they are hot furnace-like planets completely inhospitable to any form of life.

The temperature on 20f, with balmy highs of 800° Fahrenheit (427°C), is similar to the weather on Mercury, while the climate on 20e, at more than 1,400°F (760°C), would melt glass.

“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, lead author on the new study, published in Nature.

"This discovery demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we are able to detect them.”

Planet line-up with Kepler 20e and 20f

Planet line-up with Kepler 20e and 20f. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

The Earth looky-likeys are part of the five planet system Kepler 20, which has a configuration that is very different from our solar system.

In our corner of the galaxy, small, rocky worlds orbit close to the Sun, and the big gassy planets are further out. But in Kepler 20, the worlds are organised in alternating size - large, small, large, small and large.

The boffins reckon the best explanation for this is that the planets have ended up in different places from where they formed. They think that the worlds were made farther out from their parent star and then moved in, probably by bumping into the leftover materials where they originated.

Kepler stargazers also reckon it's only a matter of time before they hit the jackpot - a planet with both the right size and orbiting happily in the habitable zone.

"We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler's most anticipated discoveries are still to come," said Natalie Batalha, deputy head of the Kepler science team. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.