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Dec 05 2011

Kepler bags a twin earth candidate 600 light-years away!

This diagram compares our solar system to Kepler-22, a star system containing the first "habitable zone" planet discovered by the Kepler mission. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

It may be the first of many, but it will always be the first. It was inevitable, inasmuch as we all thought it would happen sooner or later, but a chill still ran down my spine when I read what the Kepler planet finder discovered.

(Link) — But this new orb merits special status — because it’s the first planet to be officially confirmed to exist in the so-called “habitable zone.” It’s an ideal size. It orbits just the right distance from its star. And its star is a lot like our own sun. This means that the planet, called Kepler-22b, is the best bet yet to be a place with a thick atmosphere and a wet landscape.

The article above is one of the most comprehensive, I read several to find the best. But there’s more background on Kepler here, mission homepage here — the site’s getting pounded.

Update: Estimates of surface temp are 70 to 80 F if it had an atmosphere roughly similar to earths. Via the Bad Astronomer the year is about 290 earth-days long. It could take two to three “years” to get a decent mass estimate.

Name suggestions: Xmass, Kepler, Enkidu …

You better believe ground-based observatories and probably the Hubble will be looking closely to learn everything we can about the new world and its star. The star is 600 light-years away and doesn’t even have a name as far as I know, at least not yet. Speaking of which, both alien planet and its sun could use a better name than Kepler 22B. I’ll be adding to this post with new info, cross linking it, and opening it up name suggestions on Daily Kos this week. But you guys get the first shot at naming ideas.

Hoddamn! BTW, my own working name until I hear a better one, is Xmass. Some perspective on various masses and respective disk size against sun-like star.

Diagram of earth mass and 5 times earth mass planets by hypothetical composition

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Robert B.

    “Kepler” seems like a fine name for a planet to me. But if the project doesn’t want to name its discovery after itself, how about “Endiku” – a great friend from a distant place.

  2. 2
    Lou Jost

    That’s a typing error for Enkidu, no?

  3. 3
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    Which is it?

  4. 4
    Robert B.

    Oh, yes, Enkidu. A Gilgamesh reference. And I wish I could call that a typo, the error was in my brain.

  5. 5
    The Lorax

    I read about this from the Bad Astronomer this morning. I’m remaining skeptical, of course, but I’m excited. I can’t wait for spectrographic analysis to see what sort of chemical composition it has, or to see if there are any radio signals coming from it.

    And only 600 light years away! If the galaxy was a city, this is a short walk to the local gas station for a candy bar.

  6. 6
    keansimmons

    Xmass? Xmass! You’ve got to be kidding me. Right, Steven let’s name the first earth like planet discovered a commonly used abbreviation of Christmas…and this is a suggestion from a guy on Freethought blogs who is ostensibly an atheist! If it turns out to have a satellite, do you suggest it be named Easter?

  7. 7
    fredbloggs

    What I don’t get, is that have we become so blasé about space exploration that we don’t understand the significance of these discoveries? Although it seems pretty bloody obvious to most intelligent people that most (if not all) stars have planets (given the mode of their evolution), actually PROVING that such planets exist is another matter.

    I suspect it won’t be long before we discover life (but not technological life) is widespread throughout space. But it’s good that SETI is on the ball. Life may be common, technology may be rare, but they have to try.

  8. 8
    fredbloggs

    Oh, and the problem with calling it Kepler – I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with lots of potential “Keplers”

  9. 9
    Francisco Bacopa

    I bet this planet is a worse hellhole than Venus. High mass, so likely a thick atmosphere. And we know what thick atmosphered planets at the inner edge of the habitable zone are like.

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