Recently discovered in the mass of data produced by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is an object that could be the closest thing to an “Earth twin” yet found. Unlike other newly identified planets, Kepler Object of Interest (KOI) 172.02 orbits a star that’s similar in size to Earth’s sun. Its distance from that star is three-quarters the distance between Earth and its sun, which puts it in the “habitable zone,” where liquid water could exist. “It’s definitely a good candidate for [supporting] life,” says astrophysicist Mario Livio. KOI 172.02’s radius is 1.5 times that of Earth, and it takes 242 days to make a trip around its sun.
What’s the Big Idea?
The find was announced on Monday as part of a group of 461 new potential planets located by Kepler, which has detected a total of 2,740 candidates since its 2009 launch. So far, using various scientific measurements, astronomers have confirmed that 105 really are planets, and they believe most of the rest will end up being planets as well.