NASA Spots Habitable Earth-Like Planet

Kepler-22b averages 72 degrees and may have oceans
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2011 5:29 PM CST
NASA's Kepler Telescope Spots Earth-LIke Kepler-22b Planet

(Newser) – Finally, an Earth-like planet where the weather is nice enough for an occasional visit. Only, it's 600 light-years away. Today NASA announced the existence of Kepler-22b, the first-ever planet discovered in the "habitable zone" of a sun-like star—where temperatures are placid enough to allow for water, ScienceNOW reports. "It's a great gift," says one scientist. "We were very fortunate to find it."

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Kepler-22b averages about 72 degrees, with a 290-day year and a sun about as far away as ours, the AP reports. But it's 2.4 times bigger than our planet, possibly too large to support life. Perhaps it's a gas-and-liquid planet like Neptune, but with ocean water everywhere. Still, "this discovery shows that we Homo sapiens are straining our reach into the universe to find planets that remind us of home," one scientist says. "We are almost there." (Read about a giant planet that may have left our solar system eons ago.)

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