An exciting development - a Earth-like planet in a habitable zone (even possible that it has Earth-like temperatures). I am sure this planet will be the target of many investigations, especially as newer, more sensitive, equipment come on line.
Read more of this NASA press release at: <http://astrobio.net/pressrelease/4381/kepler-confirms-exoplanet-in-a-habitable-zone>.
NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone," the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.
This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. Image Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don't yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.
Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Two other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than our sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.