Carolyn's Daily Posts: 2011

December 24, 2011

A Christmas Planet: Kepler-22b



     That huge box that won’t fit under the Christmas tree might hold the perfect present for some Earthlings. When they open it, they will find…a planet…a Christmas planet.

     A Christmas planet?

     This is how one newly discovered planet was described by William Borucki, chief scientist for the Kepler telescope, launched on a planet-hunting mission in 2009.

     “It’s a great gift,” Borucki said about the first planet discovered by the Kepler telescope that is confirmed in the habitable zone.

     The planet, eerily similar to Earth, sits outside our solar system in what seems to be the ideal place for life…smack in the middle of what astronomers call the Goldilocks zone, that hard to find place that’s not too hot, not too cold, where water, which is essential for life, doesn’t freeze or boil. And it has a shopping mall-like surface temperature of near 72 degrees

     The new planet — named Kepler-22b — has key aspects it shares with Earth. It circles a star that could be the twin of our sun and at just about the same distance. The planet’s year of 290 days is even close to ours. It likely has water and rock…Floating on that “world completely covered in water” could be like being on an Earth ocean, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that life could exist in such an ocean.

     Could this be a new frontier for us Earthlings, who are managing to use up the earth?

     As with everything else, the discovery isn’t problem free.

It’s … a bit big for life to exist on the surface. The planet is about 2.4 times the size of Earth. It could be more like the gas-and-liquid Neptune with only a rocky core and mostly ocean.

     However, us Earthlings are creative. And some among us like to take on extreme challenges.

     Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps we have discovered a viable new frontier. Only time will tell.





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