Alien Earth-Twin: Planet Kelper-22b
NASA Kelper: Planet Hunting Spacecraft
Kepler 22b, the new alien planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which NASA scientists say embraces the most hopeful possibility to date for potential future human habitation. Scientists also believe there is a tantalising option for the presence of continents, oceans and even alien life forms living on its surface. Kepler-22b is the first of many such planets that it is hoped will be discovered by the Kepler space telescope.
The Kepler Mission is a NASA Discovery Program for detecting potentially life-supporting planets-. those where liquid water might exist on the surface of those around other stars in the habitable zone. Terrestrial planets. (i.e. those one half to twice the size of the Earth)
NASA’s Kelper planet-hunting spacecraft, a Space Observatory, that has been orbiting Earth since it was launched in March 2009 is the most powerful telescope in space. It needs a large field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars.
Beginning in the Star Fields
Kelper will be searching constantly in the Cygnus star field, staring unblinkingly at around 155,000 stars every half hour, looking for tiny drops in brightness that betray the presence of planets, for the duration of it’s 3.5 years+ mission. Cygnus is ideal as it lacks in bright stars that would hamper the instruments and it contains many stars similar to our Sun
Kepler’s targetd star field in nearby region of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA
The star around which Kepler 22b orbits in the region of the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus, is slightly smaller than our Sun and about 25% less bright. The alien planet was discovered after making a "transit" across the front of its parent star – when a planet crosses in front of its star (Sun) it blocks a small fraction of the light from that star.
Image 1. Kepler’s targeted star field. Credit: Carter Roberts of the Eastbay Astronomical Society \mage 2. Artist’s rendering of Kepler’s Transit Method of Detecting Extrasolar Planets. Credit: SETI Institute
It is these microscopic variations in the star’s brightness that Kelper can detect. These tell the planet size. The time between ‘transits’ indicates the size of the planet’s orbit and estimates the planet’s temperature. These factors determine possibilities for life on the planet.
Alien Planet Kelper-22b
This artist’s conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star.
2.4 times the size of earth Kelper 22b orbits a star similar to, but smaller and cooler than, our own sun. Scientists say it is 15% closer to its own star than Earth is to our Sun and is located at the somewhat daunting distance of 600 light years away from our own Solar System. At 290 days, the duration of a year on Kepler-22b is not far off our own and the planet’s surface temperature is an agreeable 22deg C. (72deg F) (Sign up here if you wish to join Wolfie on a summer holiday)😉
Its atmosphere is of a nature that could potentially support life and Kepler-22b is the first “Earth twin” known that is situated in the ‘habitable zone’ of another Sun-like star. This allows for temperatures fitting to the existence of liquid surface water throughout its orbit. I.e. Kelper- 22b could have Earth-like continents and oceans…and where there is liquid water there is also a strong possibility of life. It is even possible, according to scientists that Kelper-22b is in fact already inhabited!
However scientists have yet to figure out whether Kepler-22b is of a primarily rock, liquid or gas composition. A rocky surface would be the best ideal for life. However, a certain Professor Abel Mendez of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory has pessimistically suggested that the chances are that the new and alien planet is likely to be too big to be a habitable world… well there’s always one!
To date the Kepler space telescope has discovered a grand total of 48 planets in the habitable zone of their own solar systems. (The “Goldilocks zone”) Kepler-22b is just the first alien world within such a zone to have been confirmed by other telescopes observations.
NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-22b on Dec. 5 2011.
Comparison chart of our own solar system and Kepler-22, a star system containing the first "habitable zone" planet discovered.
"This discovery supports the growing belief that we live in a universe crowded with life," ~ Dr Alan Boss, from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, helped identify the planet from data collected by the Kepler space telescope.
"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin," ~ Douglas Hudgins, a member of the Kepler telescope team.
“Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet," ~ William Borucki, who led the team that discovered Kepler-22b.