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This is what the most Earth-like planet ever discovered looks like

It’s chance of being habitable? “Promising.”

ASTRONOMERS AT HARVARD have discovered what could be the most Earth-like planet ever found.

Kepler-438b is one of eight planets recently discovered in the Lyra constellation. It was discovered in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone of its parent star where the temperature is right for liquid water to flow.

kepler Kepler-438b. Illustration: David A Aguilar/CfA

The planet has a diameter just 12% bigger than earth and a 70% chance of being rocky. Keplar-438b circles an orange dwarf star that bathes it in 40% more heat than our home planet receives from the sun.

In comparison, Venus gets twice as much solar radiation as Earth. As a result, the team calculates it has a 70% likelihood of being in the habitable zone of its star.

Another of the eight newly-discovered planets, Kepler-442b, is about one-third larger than Earth, but still has a 60% chance of being rocky.

It gets about two-thirds as much light as Earth. Scientists give it a 97% chance of being in the habitable zone.

Kepler-438b, which is 470 light years away, completes an orbit around its star every 35 days, making a year on the planet pass 10 times faster than on Earth.

Habitable?

Guillermo Torres of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) said most of the eight planets “have a good chance of being rocky, like Earth”.

His team’s findings were announced today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

David Kipping of the CfA said he and his colleagues ”don’t know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable … all we can say is that they’re promising candidates”.

Prior to this, the two most Earth-like planets known were Kepler-186f, which is 1.1 times the size of Earth and receives 32% as much light, and Kepler-62f, which is 1.4 times the size of Earth and gets 41% as much light.

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Órla Ryan

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