Via Zerohedge

Western researchers have discovered a mysterious exoplanet less than twice the size of Earth orbiting around a distant Sun-like star that could support life, making it the closest analog to the Earth-Sun system.

The discovery of the exoplanet KOI-456.04 orbiting the star Kepler-160 — was made by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany and the US. The findings were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, under the title “Transit least-squares survey III. A 1.9 R⊕ transit candidate in the habitable zone of Kepler-160…:” 

“The star Kepler-160 is probably orbited by a planet less than twice the size of the Earth with a star-planet distance that could permit planetary surface temperatures conducive to life. The newly discovered exoplanet, which was found by a team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, is more than just another potentially habitable world.

One of the key properties making it resemble the Sun-Earth system more than any other previously known world, is its Sun-like host star. Most of the Earth-like exoplanets known so far are in orbit around a faint red dwarf star emitting their energy mostly as infrared radiation rather than as visible light.

Most of the exoplanets from the Kepler mission are the size of Neptune and in relatively close orbits around their host stars, where temperatures on these planets would be far too hot for liquid surface water (third panel from above). Almost all of the Earth-sized planets known to have potentially Earth-like surface temperatures are in orbit around red dwarf stars, which do not emit visible light but infrared radiation instead (bottom panel).The Earth is in the right distance from the Sun to have surface temperatures required for the existence of liquid water. The newly discovered planet candidate KOI-456.04 and its star Kepler-160 (second panel from above) have great similarities to Earth and Sun (top panel). h/t MPS

The light shed on KOI-456.04 by its Sun-like host star, however, is very much like the daylight seen on our home planet. Moreover, the orbital period of KOI-456.04 around its Sun-like star is almost identical to an Earth year,” read a statement from MPS. 

What makes the KOI-456.04 discovery really interesting is that the plant is orbiting the star Kepler-160 at a comparable distance as Earth’s from the Sun — suggesting life could exist. This is a mirror image and the most similar to the Earth-Sun system of any exoplanetary system discovered so far. 

 The green shaded area denotes the habitable zone… h/t MPS 

The exoplanet is three thousand light-years from Earth and has yet to be officially confirmed — MPS said the probability of it being a real planet is 85%. 

“It cannot currently be ruled out completely that KOI-456.04 is, in fact, a statistical fluke or a systematic measurement error instead of a genuine planet. The team estimates the chances of a planetary nature of KOI-456.04 to be about 85% pro planet,” MPS said.

While KOI-456.01 is still considered a planetary candidate, the probabilities are high, according to the research, that this is the real deal. 

As for other Earth-like planets, we noted earlier this year that NASA exoplanet astronomers detected bio-signatures of a planet that could support habitable conditions to potentially promote life.

Instead of Mars, Elon Musk has to think outside of this solar system if he wants to continue wowing investors. 

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