Less than two weeks after astronomers predicted they would find an Earth-like planet some time in 2013, the feat may have already been accomplished. Scientists this week announced at the 221st meeting of American Astronomical Society that the Kepler telescope has found a "super-Earth" whose radius is 1.5 times that of our own; it exists in the habitable zone, orbits a star similar to our sun, and possibly contains water. Space.com dubs it "the most Earth-like world yet detected" outside of our solar system.
"This was very exciting because it's our first habitable-zone super Earth around a sun-type star," says a Kepler astronomer. The Earth-like planet orbits a G-type star, one that's nearly as hot as our sun, once every 242 days. "It's a big deal," adds an astrophysicist of the planet named KOI 172.02. "It's definitely a good candidate for life." (The news comes just a couple of days after astronomers announced there were probably around 17 billion Earth-size planets around the Milky Way.)