Is there life on other planets? Kepler 438b identified as most Earth-like planet beyond our Solar System

Sarah Spickernell
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Artist's impression of an Earth-like planet and its evolved star (Source: David A. Aguilar)
Far, far away in a distant star constellation, there is a planet remarkably similar to Earth - except it is more spacious, warmer, and always has brilliant red sunsets.
Kepler 438b is one of eight new "exoplanets" discovered in the Lyra constellation, and according to astronomers it is the “most Earth-like alien world”.
Not only is it rocky (rather than being an inhospitable ball of gas), but it is similar to Earth in size and temperature, being just 12 per cent larger than our home planet and having 40 per cent more exposure to its central star's heat (our own star being the sun).
The distance between Kepler 438b and its central star means it falls into the “goldilocks” zone, where the temperature of a planet is just right for liquid water to flow.
Scientists have long agreed that water and a hard surface are two of the most critical characteristics to look for when determining whether a planet has alien life potential.
"Most of these planets have a good chance of being rocky, like Earth," lead author Guillermo Torres of the CfA said in a release.
He added, however, that “we don't know for sure whether any of the planets in our sample are truly habitable."
Researchers found the Kepler 438b and its co-exoplanets using Nasa's Kepler space telescope, and the results were revealed yesterday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in the US.


A long way from home, warm and uncrowded, it sounds like the sort of place you might choose for a holiday. But humans won't be heading there any time soon – unfortunately the planet is some 475 light years away, which is a little too far. We will have to stick with looking into possible trips to Mars and the Moon for now.

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