Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Practically Neighbors

NASA’s Kepler satellite and its telescope have spotted what could be a habitable planet.

The newly discovered planet, Kepler-22b, is 2.4 times the radius of Earth and is locked in a 290-day orbit, similar in length to that of Earth’s year, around a star similar to our Sun located 600 light years away.

Most importantly, Kepler-22b is located within the so-called “Goldilocks Zone,” aka the “habitable zone,” the distance from a star at which a planet can support liquid water on its surface (i.e. where the “porridge” is neither too hot nor too cold).

The surface temperature on the planet is estimated to be a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit, Science magazine reported.

Still, scientists can’t say for certain yet whether there is any liquid water on the planet’s surface, as its mass, and thus composition, have yet to be determined.

In relative terms compared to the rest of the universe or even our own galaxy, 600 light years is practically next door. (At Warp 9, it would take less than six months to get there.)

Chances are there are a lot of other planets out there like Kepler-22b, and chances are there is life of some sort on them. I’d even be willing to go so far as to say there’s probably a planet or two that is looking at us and thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s life there.”

We should put up a sign that says, “Move along, nothing to see here; we’ve already trashed the place.”