NASA Kepler Mission Confirms First “Habitable Zone” Planet

NASA’s Kepler Mission has confirmed the first planet in the “habitable zone” of a Sun-like star. Kepler-22b is just one of 54 planets reported by the Kepler Mission as of last February. A habitable zone planet is a planet that exists within similar orbital conditions as Earth in our own solar system. Kepler-22b is 600 light years from Earth, is 2.4 times the radius of our planet, and has a 290 day orbit around a G-type star, which is the same class of star as our own sun. While the predominant composition of the planet has not been confirmed as liquid, rock, or gaseous this is a massive step in finding a new habitable planet in the galaxy.

“This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth’s twin,” said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Kepler’s results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA’s science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe.”

Artist Rendition of Kepler-22b

The Kepler science team observes star fields in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, using earth-bound telescopes and the Spitzer Space Telescope to review the data recorded by the Kepler spacecraft, which was launched in March of 2009 with the mission to determine the abundance of terrestrial and larger-scale planetary bodies within the habitable zones of a variety of stars. Since the 54 planets discovered in February, the Kepler team has discovered 2,326 new candidates of various sizes. A lot goes into determining whether or not these candidates meet the rigorous criteria set forth by the Kepler team’s definition of the habitable zone. Kepler-22b is the first of these candidates to be confirmed.

Habitable Zone Orbit of Kepler-22b

[Source] NASA

Brandon Johnston
Written by Brandon Johnston

Brandon is a Reporter, Critic, Tornado Alley Correspondent, Technomancer, and Book Department Editor for SciFi Mafia®. When he's not writing for SciFi Mafia®, he's busy being a dad, a novelist, and a man with more hobbies and interests than is healthy for any one person to have.