NASA astronomer finds first Earth-sized planet in habitable zone

Illustration for article titled NASA astronomer finds first Earth-sized planet in habitable zone

The search for a new Earth outside the solar system seems to be nearing its end. NASA's Ames Research Center astronomer Thomas Barclay has found a planet nearly the size of Earth in the habitable zone of a star in the Milky Way.


Barclay's announcement at the Search for Life Beyond the Solar System conference hasn't been officially published yet, so the details are scarce. We know that:

1. It's an M1 red dwarf star (maybe we should call it Krypton.)

2. It's a goldilocks planet, orbiting within the zone where liquid water (and life) can exist.

3. It's radius is only 1.1 times the size of Earth. Until now the minimum size for a new Earth candidate was 1.4 times—Kepler-62f, which orbits a star about 1,200 light years away from us.

4. At least five other planets are orbiting this red dwarf.

I can't wait for that new telescope starshade that will let us take actual photos of these new worlds.

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The real question: is it rocky? If it's rocky, I'd call it a potential Earth II. If it's gaseous, then complex life is less likely because there wouldn't be a substrate for the first cells to form on.