Kepler discovers smallest habitable zone planets

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

The two planetary systems are Kepler-62 and Kepler-69. The Kepler-62 system has five planets; 62b, 62c, 62d, 62e and 62f. The Kepler-69 system has two planets; 69b and 69c. Kepler-62e, 62f and 69c are the habitable-zone “super Earths.”

“The discovery of these rocky planets in the habitable zone brings us a bit closer to finding a place like home,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “It is only a matter of time before we know if the galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth, or if we are a rarity.”

Kepler-62 System

View Larger |The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-62, a five-planet system about 1,200 light-years from Earth.

The planets of the Kepler-62 system orbit a star classified as a K2 dwarf, measuring just two-thirds the size of the sun and only one-fifth as bright. At seven billion years old, the star is somewhat older than the sun. It is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth.

The planets of the Kepler-62 system orbit a star classified as a K2 dwarf, measuring just two-thirds the size of the sun and only one-fifth as bright. At seven billion years old, the star is somewhat older than the sun. It is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth.

Kepler-69

View Larger | The diagram compares the planets of the inner solar system to Kepler-69, a two-planet system about 2,700 light-years from Earth.


Via NASA Science News

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