Astronomers uncover Earth's nearby twinby Steven Mostyn - Dec 6 2011, 11:53
NASA's deep-space observatory is on the hunt. Image: NASA.
Current technology will need to advance sufficiently if we’re to ever truly venture into the stars, but that hasn’t prevented astronomers from gushing with excitement after locating a nearby planet very similar to our own.
The planet in question, which is orbiting the star ‘Kepler-22b’, is located some 600 light years away from Earth and is one of some 500 worlds already discovered in solar systems beyond our own.
Plucked from the night sky by the Kepler Space Telescope, the planet provides further us with evidence that we are homing in on the true Earth-sized habitable planets, said NASA.
The Kepler telescope locates new worlds by monitoring more than 150,000 distant stars, isolating any orbiting planets by picking up peaks and troughs in their light emissions.
Its roving eye is presently peering into the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra as the telescope works to construct a galactic map of stars and planets within the Milky Way.
In terms of similarities with Earth, NASA has said the newly discovered planet is around 2.4 times bigger than our world, could have surface water, and an average surface temperature of around 22 degrees centigrade.
With a solar orbital time of approximately one year, the planet is positioned well within the all-important “habitable zone”, which scientists use to determine whether new worlds could potentially support life.