This post was edited by WhiteBear at 2013-4-19 12:10|
[size=12.222222328186035px]This undated handout artist concept provided by Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows the newly discovered planets named Kepler-62e and -f. Scientists using NASA's Kepler telescope have found two distant planets that are in the right place and are the right size for potential life.
WASHINGTON -- NASA's planet-hunting telescope hasdiscovered two planets that seem like ideal places for some sort of life toflourish. They are just the right size and in just the right place near theirstar.
The distant duo are the best candidatesfor habitable planets that astronomers have found so far, said William Borucki, the chief scientist for NASA's Kepler telescope.
The discoveries, published onlineThursday in the journal Science, mark a milestone in the search for planetswhere life could exist.In the past when astronomers foundexoplanets - planets outside our solar system - they haven't fit all the criteriathat would make them right for life. Many planets aren't in the habitable zone- where it's not too hot and not too cold for liquid water. And until now, thehandful of planets astronomers found in that ideal zone, were just too big.Those are likely to be gas balls like Neptune and that's not suitable for life.
Similarly, the Earth-size planets thathad been found weren't in the right place near their stars, Borucki said.In the Goldilocks game of looking forother planets like ours, the new discoveries, called Kepler-62-e andKepler-62-f are just right. And they are fraternal twins. They circle the samestar, an orange dwarf, and are next to each other - closer together than Earthand its neighbor Mars.
The planets are slightly wider thanEarth, but not too big. Kepler-62-e is a bit toasty, like a Hawaiian world andKepler-62-f is a bit nippy, more Alaskan, Borucki said.
"This is the first one where I'mthinking `Huh, Kepler-62-f really might have life on it'," said studyco-author David Charbonneau of Harvard. "This is a very important barrierthat's been crossed. Why wouldn't it have life?"
Both planets are tantalizing. The dozensof researchers who co-authored the study disagree on which one is better suitedto life. Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy in Germanylikes Kepler-62-3 more because it's closer to the star and is warmer. She saidit is probably "like Washington in May."
Pennsylvania State University professorJames Kasting, who wasn't part of the research, called the findings "a bigdiscovery."The planets are 1,200 light years away.A light year is almost 6 trillion miles.The planets circle a star that is 7billion years old - about 2.5 billion years older than our sun."If there's life at all on thoseplanets, it must be very advanced," said Borucki.
thanks to my favourite meteo-site wunderground.com