Kepler confirms its first planet in habitable zone
The top diagram compares our own solar system to Kepler-22, a star system containing the first habitable zone planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. The habitable zone is the sweet spot around a star where temperatures are right for water to exist in its liquid form. Liquid water is essential for life on Earth.
Kepler-22’s star is a bit smaller than our sun, so its habitable zone is slightly closer in. The top diagram shows an artist’s rendering of the planet comfortably orbiting within the habitable zone, similar to where Earth circles the sun. Kepler-22b has a yearly orbit of 289 days. The planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest known to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It’s about 2.4 times the size of Earth.
Scientists do not yet know if the planet has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition. It’s possible that the world would have clouds in its atmosphere, as depicted here in the artist’s interpretation.
(Source: jpl.nasa.gov, via gravitationalbeauty)