NASA has said that it has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet, called Kepler–1649, orbiting in its star’s habitable zone.
The exoplanet was spotted by a team of transatlantic scientists using reanalysed data from the agency’s Kepler space telescope. The habitable zone is the area around a star where a rocky planet could support water in its liquid state.
“Out of all the exoplanets found by Kepler, this distant world — located 300 light-years from Earth — is most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature,” NASA said.
The space agency added that exoplanet is only 1.06 times larger than the Earth. The amount of starlight it receives from its host red dwarf star is 75 per cent of the amount of light Earth receives from the Sun.
NASA said that this means the temperature of the newly discovered planet may be similar to that of Earth.
“This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
Scientists discovered the new planet while looking through old observations made by the Kepler space telescope that was retired after it ran out of fuel.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about this exoplanet, including anything about its atmosphere, which could affect the temperature of the planet. “But based on what is known, Kepler–1649c is especially intriguing for scientists looking for worlds with potentially habitable conditions,” the space agency added.
There are other exoplanets that are estimated to be closer to Earth in size or temperature, but Kepler–1649c is considered to be closest to the blue planet in both these parameters, NASA said.
Kepler–1649c orbits its star so closely that a year there is equivalent to only 19.5 Earth days.