The Kepler spacecraft has certainly turned out to be a rock star of science
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Kepler has recently discovered 2 planetary systems, Kepler 62 and Kepler 69. The thing is that there are 3 super-Earth-sized planets in these systems that are in the habitable region of their star. That is exciting news indeed !
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 super-Earth-sized planets, we are most interested in.
Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. 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 third planet, Kepler-69c, is 70 percent larger than the size of Earth, and orbits in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c, but its orbit of 242 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our neighboring planet Venus.
It is not certain as to whether these planets have liquid water, but there is certainly a nice chance that there is.
Relative sizes of all of the habitable-zone planets discovered to date alongside Earth. Left to right: Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f and Earth (except for Earth, these are artists’ renditions). Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech.
Kepler is turning out to be really awesome !! Will it ever find an exoplanet just like Earth ? Who knows, it just might.