Humans ‘could feel at home’ on new alien planet

Fly by: Telescopes missed the planet at first because it orbits its star so quickly. © Nasa

Have we found another Earth? Astronomers have discovered a distant planet previously missed by telescopes. The exoplanet has many of the properties needed to make a second home in space.

What’s happening

An enormous sun rises over a dusty landscape. The morning light is deep red, and it lights up craters and mountains of rock. Somewhere on this distant planet, there could be rivers, oceans, and rain. It may be 300 light-years away, but scientists say it is the most Earth-like planet ever found.

Find out more

Astronomers stopped using the Kepler telescope to search for exoplanets in 2018. It was only when checking old data that they made a discovery: a planet more similar to Earth than any they had found.

Kepler-1649c orbits a red dwarf star in a small solar system. The small sun gives off little heat, but Kepler-1649c huddles next to it, orbiting so closely that a year takes just 19 days. The exoplanet is in the habitable zone of its solar system, where water and life are far more likely to form. Just 8% larger than Earth, it would feel very similar to home.

“This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found,” says Nasa scientist Thomas Zurbuchen.

Have we found a second Earth?

Some say…

Not quite. We don’t know enough about this planet yet. Radiation levels could be high, the atmosphere could be uninhabitable, and there is no proof of water. The planet is 300 light-years away, meaning travel is currently impossible. Plus, the star could be dangerous – a ball of nuclear fusion so close to a planet could wipe out life in seconds.

Others think…

Possibly! This planet gives us a lot to hope for when it comes to finding habitable planets. It is the right size and temperature. The possibility that water could exist on it is high, and the rocky terrain is not unlike Earth’s. As technology advances, life in space will become more likely and Kepler-1649c could be one of our first options.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to live on another planet?

Activities

  1. Design your dream planet, draw it, and make a fact file all about it. What is the climate? How many moons are there? What are the oceans made of?

Some People Say...

“The first humans to land on Mars should not come back to Earth. They should begin a settlement.”

Buzz Aldrin, US astronaut

What do you think?

Word Watch

Light-years
The distance that light travels in one year, nearly 6 million million miles!
Kepler telescope
A retired space telescope launched in 2009 to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. Named after astronomer Johannes Kepler.
Exoplanets
A planet which orbits a star outside our solar system.
Orbits
An orbit is the path that an object takes in space when it goes around a star, a planet, or a moon. As a verb, it means goes round and round; rotates.
Red dwarf star
The most common star in the galaxy, these stars are far less bright than our sun, and give off less heat.
Habitable zone
The region of a solar system where life is most likely to form. Usually, this is because conditions are right for water to exist.
Radiation
Energy that moves from one place to another.
Uninhabitable
Unsuitable for living in.
Nuclear fusion
The energy source which causes stars to “shine”, and hydrogen bombs to explode.
Terrain
Stretch of land.

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