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LocalA new earth far, far away

December 1, 2013

Eric Argol shows a computer model of his discovery, Kepler-62f

Eric Argol shows a computer model of his discovery, Kepler-62f

Photographer: Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times

Kepler 62f is a big discovery. It is a new planet in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and it may be very similar to earth. Because it is 1,200 light years away, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Washington, Eric Argol, first “saw” it, not with a telescope, but with his computer. It was a little dip in a bunch of tiny dots. The dip was the planet crossing a star.

Professor Argol used data from the Kepler telescope. This telescope was put into space in 2009 to locate sunlike stars. Many scientists are analyzing data from the telescope. However, Argol’s special algorithm allowed him to examine extra small objects, and so he was able to find Kepler 62f.

Kepler 62f is a rocky, earthlike planet orbiting around Kepler 62, a sunlike star in the middle of the Lyra constellation. Kepler 62f is 1.4 times bigger than Earth and has 267 days. It is much cooler than earth because it gets only half as much heat as earth does. In fact, it could be covered by ice, but it is still in a habitable zone.

A “habitable” or “Goldilocks” zone is important. A planet in a habitable zone has liquid water because it is neither too far nor too close to its own sun. A planet like this could have the right temperature and other conditions to potentially support life.

Scientists have also discovered another planet, Kepler 62e in the same constellation. It is closer to its star, Kepler 62, and might be more tropical.

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Developed by Svetlana Minkina


Published December 2013

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