Stunningly Earth-Like Planet Found Hiding in Kepler Telescope Data

This artist's concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA's Kepler space telescope

This artist's concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA's Kepler space telescope

The exoplanet, called Kepler-1649c, orbits its small red dwarf star within the system's habitable zone, a distance at which rocky planets receive enough star radiation to allow for liquid water to exist.

This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star's habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler's data. Additionally, the quantity of starlight it receives from its host star is 75% of the quantity of sunshine Earth receives from our Sun - that means the exoplanet's temperature could also be much like our planet's, as nicely.

This NASA graphic shows Earth compared to exoplanet Kepler-1649c.

"This fascinating, distant world gives us even greater hope that the Second Earth is between stars waiting to be discovered", said Thomas Zurbuchen, the first deputy director of NASA's science mission department in Washington, DC.

Scientists do not now know anything about Kepler-1649c's atmosphere, which would affect the surface temperature.

Kepler-1649c joins the list of other intriguing finds, such as TRAPPIST-1f, TRAPPIST-1D and TOI 700d, in the hunt for habitable exoplanets.

There are other exoplanets that are estimated to be closer to Earth in size or temperature, but Kepler-1649c is considered to be closest to the blue planet in both these parameters, NASA said.

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Kepler-1649c completes one orbit around its red dwarf star in 19.5 Earth days, which is exciting as it places it in its host star's "habitable zone".

Vandenburg says that their data suggests that Earth-like exoplanets are commonly found around red dwarfs, With such stars being present nearly everywhere in the galaxy, there is a larger chance that one may be similar enough to our Earth.

Kepler has revolutionized our understanding of planets beyond the solar system through its observations of tens of thousands of stars. It was only after further review by the Kepler False Positive Working Group that the error was discovered. However, astrobiologists will need much more information about this planet in order to gage whether it is promising for life as we know it.

A comparison of Earth and Kepler-1649c.

The periodic dip in brightness isn't always caused by exoplanets, Jeffrey Coughlin, co-author of the study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters earlier this month, and the director of the K2 science office at the SETI Institute, explained.

Artist's illustration of what Kepler-1649c's surface may look like. It was initially overlooked as a potential second Earth candidate because an algorithm put it under the false-positive category.

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