NASA scientists for the first time managed to confirm the existence of extrasolar planets present in the so-called ecosphere – the zone around the star where there are favorable conditions for the emergence of life, such as liquid water.

A unique planet could be seen through the telescope Kepler (a space based observatory) whose one of the tasks is to search for Earth-like extrasolar planets.

- This is a milestone on our way to finding Earth’s twin sister, said excited Douglas Hudgins of NASA.

The planet has been called Kepler-22b, it is 600 light-years far from Earth in the zones bordering the Cygnus and Lyra constellations. It circles its primary Sun-like star with an orbital period of 290 days. So far it is impossible to determine whether it’s composed of rocks, gases, or liquids.

Image by NASA (Kepler-22b compared to Earth)

Kepler Space Telescope captures a new planet by measuring the decrease in brightness of 150 thousand stars. Such a decline in the star’s brightness means that probably there was a transit, or passage of one celestial body (e.g. a space planet) through the disc of a second celestial body (it can be a star) – said Ian Ridpath of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Researchers decide whether a celestial body qualifies as a planet when they witness three transits.

Astrophysicists have discovered over 1000 candidates for planets so far. 10 of them resemble Earth in their dimensions and circle around Sun-like bodies, which means that they are placed in the ecosphere; but all are waiting for confirmation of whether they are planets or not.

Read the full story about Kepler 22-b on the NASA website

Source: NASA, APTN