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Kepler Discovers Smallest 'Habitable Zone' Planets

The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-62, a five-planet system about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. The five planets of Kepler-62 orbit a star classified as a K2 dwarf, measuring just two thirds the size of the sun and only one fifth as bright. At seven billion years old, the star is somewhat older than the sun.  Much like our solar system, Kepler-62 is home to two habitable zone worlds, Kepler-62f and Kepler-62e. Kepler-62f orbits every 267 days and is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the smallest exoplanet known in the habitable zone of another star. The other habitable zone planet, Kepler-62e, orbits every 122 days and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth.  The size of Kepler-62f is known, but its mass and composition are not. However, based on previous exoplanet discoveries of similar size that are rocky, scientists are able to determine its mass by association.  The two habitable zone worlds orbiting Kepler-62 have three interior companions, two larger than the size of Earth and one about the size of Mars. Kepler-62b, Kepler-62c and Kepler-62d, orbit every five, 12, and 18 days, respectively, making them very hot and inhospitable for life as we know it.  The artistic concepts of the Kepler-62 planets are the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant worlds.  The Kepler space telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measures the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA's first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun.   Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech
The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-62, a five-planet system about 1,200 light-years from Earth.
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

The two planetary systems are Kepler-62 and Kepler-69.  The Kepler-62 system has five planets; 62b, 62c, 62d, 62e and 62f. The Kepler-69 system has two planets; 69b and 69c. Kepler-62e, 62f and 69c are the habitable-zone "super Earths."
"The discovery of these rocky planets in the habitable zone brings us a bit closer to finding a place like home," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "It is only a matter of time before we know if the galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth, or if we are a rarity."
The  planets of the Kepler-62 system orbit a star classified as a K2 dwarf, measuring just two-thirds the size of the sun and only one-fifth as bright. At seven billion years old, the star is somewhat older than the sun. It is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.
Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth.
The planets of the Kepler-69 orbit a star in the same class as our sun, called G-type. It is 93 percent the size of the sun and 80 percent as luminous and is located approximately 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
Kepler-69c is 70 percent larger than the size of Earth. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c, but its orbit of 242 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our neighboring planet Venus.
"We only know of one star that hosts a planet with life, the sun. Finding a planet in the habitable zone around a star like our sun is a significant milestone toward finding truly Earth-like planets," said Thomas Barclay, Kepler scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, and lead author of the Kepler-69 system discovery published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-69, a two-planet system about 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The two planets of Kepler-69 orbit a star that belongs to the same class as our sun, called G-type.   Kepler-69c, is 70 percent larger than the size of Earth, and is the smallest yet found to orbit in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c, but its orbit of 242 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our neighboring planet Venus. The companion planet, Kepler-69b, is just over twice the size of Earth and whizzes around its star once every 13 days.   The artistic concepts of the Kepler-69 planets are the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant worlds.   The Kepler space telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measures the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA's first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun.   Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech
The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-69, a two-planet system about 2,700 light-years from Earth.

"Kepler has brought a resurgence of astronomical discoveries and we are making excellent progress toward determining if planets like ours are the exception or the rule," added William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames and lead author of the Kepler-62 system paper in Science.
Scientists do not know whether life could exist on the newfound planets, but their discovery signals we are another step closer to finding a world similar to Earth around a star like our sun.
Says Grunsfeld, "the Kepler spacecraft has certainly turned out to be a rock star of science."
For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the digital press kit, visithttp://www.nasa.gov/kepler




Posted by Omkarr singh on Friday, April 19, 2013. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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