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January 10, 2011

New, Tiny Earth-Like Planet Is Discovered

A new discovery, an exoplanet called Kepler-10b, has proven that there are worlds similar to Earth in other solar systems. The planet is currently too hot for life as we know it, but it is believed to have sustained life in the past. This mysterious little planet is located about 560 light-years from Earth, and is circling a star much like our sun, although twice as old. The planet was discovered using the Kepler Space Telescope, and shares some similar rocky surfaces of our Earth.

Some are even going as far as to say this discovery is comparable to the creation of penicillin, or perhaps the discovery of DNA. More than 500 planets have been previously discovered outside our solar system, but most of them are gaseous planets similar to Jupiter or Saturn. Scientists are constantly striving to find planets with greater likenesses to that of Earth.

The planet is thought to have previously been located farther away from its star (it is now circling 20 times closer to its star than Mercury orbits the Sun). The surface temperature is approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and the planet seems unable to hold an atmosphere. Its present conditions certainly don't make it habitable, but the discovery of the planet itself is enough to solidify scientists belief that Earth-like planets do exist outside our solar system.

Discover News>Space News>Tiny, Earth-Like Planet Discovered
http://news.discovery.com/space/rocky-earth-like-exoplanet-110110.html

Posted by kailjoyb at January 10, 2011 11:08 PM

Comments

I think the discovery of a planet similar to Earth is a pretty amazing discovery because it provides some hopeful evidence for life in other solar systems. But I am a little confused about what exactly makes this planet Earth-like or provides evidence that it used to be similar to Earth? Regardless the fact that astronomers have discovered a place that was potentially habitable and similar to our planet at some time is pretty interesting. I wonder what information can be learned from the fact that it is so much closer to the sun and so much hotter than Earth. Did it have an atmosphere in the past? Does this give insight into the future of Earth? There are a lot of interesting questions that can be raised.

Posted by: emschnei at January 11, 2011 10:57 AM

I agree, what makes this Earth-like planet so special compared to other Earth-like planets? It is at least believed that Mars may have had water at one point, but this planet just seems to have a hard surface. It's also curious what happened to make the planet move towards its star. Does this mean that that same thing could happen to other planets as well who orbit stars like our own? Or did another force interfere?

Posted by: brdoss at January 11, 2011 02:34 PM

I'll do my best to clarify some of your questions. First of all, this discovery is so significant because it is the first discovery of an Earth-like planet OUTSIDE our solar system. Those previously discovered tend to be far different from anything we have here on Earth. The few similarities this planet does share with Earth, as opposed to other planets outside our solar system, is what makes it so special. Scientists were able to measure the density of the planet easily because it rotates it star only once a day, thus finding that the density of the planet was much like that or Earth (which is what affects the surface/rockiness). Secondly, it is believed to have been able to hold an atmosphere in the past, but due to radiation it has slowly lost that ability. As for why the planet is so close to its star, I believe I remember reading that that was either thought to be its original position or a result of gradual gravitational pulls. To us these things may seem unremarkable, but for astronomers and scientists this seems to be almost as good as striking gold.

Posted by: kailjoyb at January 11, 2011 04:11 PM

In response to the comment left by emschnel, I have a theory to one of your comments. The planet is said to have gotten a lot closer to its star recently, and is noted to be 2,500 degrees Farenheit. I'm wondering if in the past, because it was farther away from the blistering hot star, it may have been a lot cooler. The cooler the planet was, the more likely life was sustainable there. Therefore, life may have ended simply because it was getting to hot to survive. I'm not sure what the temperature of the star is that the planet orbits, or even if it's heat can really affect a planet that far away. I also don't know how much sense my theory may make, but I still think it's kind of interesting. Feel free to challenge it, agree, or completely disagree! Also, cool article find. :)

Posted by: alymro at January 20, 2011 12:19 AM

It is all so controversial, but I agree alymro. This planet could be exatly like earth, but just in the future. The post did say that the sun is twice as times older than our sun. For all we know, this could be the future of the earth. I also think that this is a cause for more research on this planet. I am excited to see what new information we can get on this planet.

Posted by: mackenro at January 22, 2011 11:47 AM

alymro and mackenro, I definitely agree with you both. Because this planet has so many characteristics that are similar to earth, it seems safe to predict that this planet can indicate our planet's future. I think it is really interesting that the planet has gotten so close to the sun, because therefore, a dominant race such as the human race, would not be able to survive. However, as we learned in class, there are certain micro organisms that can live in very intense heat, so for all we know there could still be some form of life on this planet. It is definitely important for astronomers to continue to look at this planet, but even if we did find life, it would take a very long time to do so. Either way, we can use this planet as an example of some things that could happen to Earth.

Posted by: skritt at January 25, 2011 07:32 PM

alymro. I also agree with you. Definitely a huge find in terms of our search for life on another planet. The idea of a cooler surface could probably mean that the existence of life would be 'more likely' . However, I think if the planet cannot sustain an atmosphere life would be almost impossible to be sustained. An ozone layer is one of the most defining aspects of why we are able to exist on this planet. I feel without that, life is too hard to sustain. still, awesome article.

Posted by: jnana at April 18, 2011 07:02 AM

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