Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nasa space telescope finds 'twin' of Earth orbiting a distant Sun-like star - 20th Dec 2011

A rocky planet the same size as the Earth has been discovered orbiting a star like our sun.

It is the first time a planet of this size has been detected in another solar system. Scientists have hailed the technical achievement of detecting Earth sized ‘exoplanets’ - the technical term for planets outside the solar system - as it increases the chances of finding life-bearing worlds.

Although the planet, Kepler-20f could have a thick water-vapour atmosphere, its surface is believed to be too hot for life.

A second planet in the same system, Kepler-20e, is only slightly smaller than Earth and even hotter.

Both worlds circle their parent star closely with 'years' that last just nine and sixteen days respectively.

Dr Francois Fressin, one of the astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, US, said: ‘It is the first time humanity has been able to discover an object similar to the Earth around a star, so maybe we will be able to find others.

‘This could be an important milestone. I think 10 years or maybe even 100 years from now people will look back and ask when was the first Earth-sized planet found. It is very exciting.’ Read More