On December 5, astronomers introduced a newly discovered planet that might support outer space life. The planet is outside our solar system, and is called Kepler-22b. It’s temperature is neither too hot or too cold for water, which is essential to life as we know it. It is located 600 light years away from Earth.
Studies suggest that the average temperature on Kepler 22b hovers around 72° F. This planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth and orbits a sun-like star in 289 days. On Earth, objects with more mass weigh more. The scientists hoped to use mass as an indication of whether Kepler-22b might be even remotely Earthlike, and therefore able to support life.
We don’t know if it’s a rocky world, a gaseous one, or what. It may not even have an atmosphere! Scientists can’t know that, however, without further observations. But if Kepler-22b isn’t hospitable for E.T. or other life forms, that would be all right, too.
“It’s a great gift,” space scientist Bill Borucki said at the conference introducing the planet. “We consider this sort of our Christmas planet.” Borucki works at NASA’s Ames Research Center, where he leads a team of scientists who look for planets using the Kepler Space Telescope.
Scientists have identified more than 2,000 possible planets using the Kepler Space Telescope ’s data. Each planet has to be confirmed by follow-up studies, and Kepler 22b has already passed the second test. Perhaps another, more Earthlike planet is just waiting in the data.