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The final frontier
Thu April 18, 2013
UW astronomer discovers alien planet that seems ideal for life
A University of Washington astronomer has discovered an alien planet where life might flourish.
Eric Agol, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Washington, found Kepler-62f, one of three so-called “Goldilocks” planets as a part of NASA’s Kepler space telescope mission. He co-authored the paper on the discoveries published in the journal Science Thursday.
Two of these "super-Earth-sized" planets—Kepler-62e and Kepler 62f—orbit a star cooler than the sun, and are just the right size and in just the right place near their star, NASA said. Both are part of the Kepler-62 planetary system, which has a total of five planets.
Kepler-62e, which was found first, is said to be 60 percent larger than the Earth. Kepler-62f is believed to have a rocky formation and some atmosphere.
“Kepler-62f is the smallest size and the most promising distance from its star, which by these measures makes it the most similar exoplanet to Earth that has been found by Kepler," said Agol.
The third planet, Kepler-69c, exists in the Kepler-69 planetary system, and orbits a start that resembles Venus. It is 70 percent larger than our planet, researchers said.
NASA’s Kepler telescope is working to identify Earth-size planets around stars similar to our sun. It continuously and simultaneously measures the brightness of more than 150,000 stars.