Kepler finds the most Earth-like exoplanets ever discovered

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Astronomers announced today that they have found eight new planets in the “Goldilocks” zone of their stars, orbiting at a distance where liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface.

According to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, among these eight, the team identified two that are the most similar to Earth of any known exoplanets to date.

The two most Earth-like planets of the group are Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b. Both orbit red dwarf stars that are smaller and cooler than our Sun.

The team’s findings on the two planets were as follows:

Kepler-438b receives about 40 percent more light than Earth. (In comparison, Venus gets twice as much solar radiation as Earth.) As a result, the team calculates it has a 70 percent likelihood of being in the habitable zone of its star.

Kepler-442b get about two-thirds as much light as Earth. The scientists give it a 97 percent chance of being in the habitable zone.

Prior to this, the two most Earth-like planets known were Kepler-186f and Kepler-62f.

“We don’t know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable,” said David Kipping, of the Center for Astrophysics. “All we can say is that they’re promising candidates.”

Read more: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics