Located 219 lightyears away from Earth, the new alien world—dubbed Kepler-1649b— tightly embraces its host star, completing one orbit in nine days. Experts say this discovery is a MAJOR step forward in the search for alien life.
Astronomers exploring the universe have made another important discovery as they have found an Earth-like, alien world located 219 light years from us. Experts say this discovery is a MAJOR step forward in the search for alien life.
The newly discovery alien planet—dubbed Kepler-1649b—is only slightly larger than our planet, and it orbits a low-temperature star called M5V that’s one-fifth the diameter of our Sun. Kepler-1649b takes nine days to make a single orbit around its star.
The new alien planet was discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope—launched on March 7, 2009— and takes the total toll of likely candidates for life-bearing planets to 4496.
“Planets like Kepler-1649b will be prime candidates for atmospheric and habitability studies in the next generation of space missions”, researchers said in the paper which is published in The Astronomical Journal.
Kepler-1649b has an extremely tight orbit which causes the flux of sunlight reaching the planet to be around 2.3 times as great as the solar flux here on Earth.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that planets like Kepler-1649b—orbiting their sun in close proximity—could, in theory, fall within the habitable zone of their star. In astronomy and astrobiology, the Circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), or simply the habitable zone, is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure.
As noted in the study, “the Kepler mission has revealed that Earth-sized planets are common, and dozens have been discovered to orbit in or near their host star’s habitable zone. A major focus in astronomy is to determine which of these exoplanets are likely to have Earth-like properties that are amenable to follow-up with both ground- and future space-based surveys, with an ultimate goal of probing their atmospheres to look for signs of life. Venus-like atmospheres will be of particular interest in these surveys. While Earth and Venus evolved to have similar sizes and densities, it remains unclear what factors led to the dramatic divergence of their atmospheres. Studying analogs to both Earth and Venus can thus shed light on the limits of habitability and the potential for life on known exoplanets.”
Isabel Angelo, a scientist at SETI Institute said, “…the study of planets similar to the Venus twin Kepler 1649b is becoming increasingly important in order to understand the habitable zone boundaries of M dwarfs.”
Elisa Quintana, from the Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center, and a member of the Kepler 1649b discovery team, said: “Many people are hung up on finding other Earths. But Venus analogs are just as important.”
“Since new telescopes coming down the pike will allow us to probe atmospheres, focusing on both Earth and Venus analogs may help decipher why, in our Solar System, one planet allows life to thrive, and one does not, despite having similar masses, comparable densities, etc”, she said.
Angelo added, “There are several factors, like star variability and tidal effects, which make these planets different from Earth-sized planets around Sun-like stars.”
Featured image credit: Danielle Futselaar