Newly Spotted Planet Is Most Earth-Like Yet
Kepler-438b just one of several exciting finds
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2015 3:58 AM CST
An artist's impression of an Earth-like planet orbiting a star that has formed a nebula.   (Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

(Newser) – If you're sick of Earth and have a spacecraft capable of traveling hundreds of light-years, astronomers have spotted the most promising destination yet. Kepler-438b is a newly-confirmed potential "Earth twin" detected by the Kepler Space Telescope, the BBC reports, one of eight confirmed new exoplanets. The planet, about 470 light-years away in the Lyra constellation, is the most Earth-like ever spotted outside our solar system. It's only slightly larger than our planet, sits in the "Goldilocks zone" where the temperature is right for liquid water to flow, and probably has a rocky surface, researchers say. Its dwarf star gives it around 40% more heat than our planet receives from the sun, and its years are just 35 days long.

The latest find brings the number of confirmed worlds spotted by Kepler—including Kepler-186f, the previous most Earth-like find—to just over 1,000, with more than 3,000 still to be vetted, reports Scientific American. To search for clues that life may exist on Kepler-438b and other planets, researchers plan to examine Kepler data for signs of moons, which help stabilize orbits and temperatures, and for gas giants in the same solar system, which reduce the odds of catastrophic asteroid hits, the Guardian reports. (Last month, Kepler data revealed a possible water world, or "mini-Neptune," 180 light-years away.)