Kepler Mission Finds 2 Earth Sized Planets

The Kepler mission has recently found not one but two planets that are the size of Earth orbiting a yellow star similar to our own. This is important news because while many other planets have been found orbiting other starts, all of them are at least one and a half times more massive than Earth. It has been extremely difficult to find such small planets due to the fact that they don’t make their star wobble back and forth very much as they orbit and they don’t dim the star very much as they pass in front of it. This shows that our understanding of planet detection is increasing, especially since we were able to find these planets from a distance of 950 light years.

So, are we going to be able to settle down and take vacations on these planets? No, unfortunately they both orbit their star well inside the orbit of Mercury. Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f have temperatures of 1400 degrees F and 800 degrees F which are way too hot for any human use. Three other Neptune sized planets have also been found in this system, but they are also superhot planets. Since the order of the planets in the Kepler 20 system are large, small, large, small, large, this data also shows us that there is a wide variety of planetary arrangements that can differ from our solar system significantly.

Earlier this month the discovery of Kepler 22b showed us that we can detect planets that are within the habitable zone of their star. Now we see with Kepler 20e and f that we can detect Earth sized planets. It is an exciting time to live in, where we have the tools to find Earth like planets orbiting in the habitable zones of stars that are similar to our own. It’s only a matter of time before we are able to finally find another Earth. With the Kepler mission making important discoveries every month or less, we may end up finding many other planets just like Earth.

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