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Tuesday
Dec062011

Kepler 22b: Scientists Discover New Earth-Like Planet

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MOFFETT FIELD, Calif.) -- Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., announced on Monday the discovery of Kepler 22b, which may be about as close to resembling our planet as we're going to get about 600 light years away.

The Kepler space telescope discovery team said this planet is about 2.4 times wider than the Earth but its similar distance from a sun-like star might mean the average temperature on Kepler 22b is 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kepler scientist Natalie Batalha proclaimed, "It is right smack in the middle of the habitable zone."

She and her team came across the planet after spending five years peering through telescopes, looking for what is appropriately termed "Goldilocks" planets that are neither too hot nor too cold but just right for sustaining liquid water -- the key to life.

Geoff Marcy of the University of California-Berkeley, a Kepler investigator, calls it "a phenomenal discovery in the course of human history."  But he adds Kepler 22b "is probably rocky with a thick layer of water and gas, making it more like Neptune in our solar system."

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