Newly Discovered Exoplanet Could Be the Next Earth According to NASA

The Earth-like planet was found by researchers trolling through early NASA Kepler data.
Fabienne Lang
Illustration of the surface of Kepler-1649cDaniel Rutter/NASA/Ames Research Center

NASA's Kepler exoplanet-hunter may be out of service, but its data is still proving fruitful. A team of transatlantic scientists has gone through Kepler's data by hand and has discovered an Earth-like planet that could be able to support life as we know it. 

The exoplanet is named Kepler-1649c and orbits a red dwarf star around 300 light-years from Earth. It's roughly the size of our Earth and lies in the "habitable zone" of its host star, which allows liquid water to live on its surface. 

Their findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on Wednesday.


Earth 2.0

Kepler-1649c completes one orbit around its red dwarf star in 19.5 Earth days, which is exciting as it places it in its host star's "habitable zone." 

"This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

Newly Discovered Exoplanet Could Be the Next Earth According to NASA
Graphic depicting the sizing difference between Earth and Kepler-1649c, Source: Daniel Rutter/NASA/Ames Research Center

NASA's Kepler searched for and found hundreds of planets during its time in Space. Now, some of that data is still offering extraordinary information, such as the discovery of Kepler-1649c, the potentially habitable exoplanet. As per Kepler's observations, 20 to 25% of the 220 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy host worlds that may be inhabitable zones. That's a lot of potential planets to re-locate to someday. 

Much of Kepler's data was siphoned through using computer algorithms, however, it looks like the algorithms didn't pick up on all important information. So a team of researchers was formed called the Kepler False Positive Working Group to carry out investigations and ensure all data brought in by Kepler is properly read through. 

And we're glad for it, as Kepler-1649c was one piece of crucial information that was missed by the algorithm. 

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Newly Discovered Exoplanet Could Be the Next Earth According to NASA
Artist's rendition of what Kepler-1649c looks like on the surface as it orbits its red dwarf star, Source: Daniel Rutter/NASA/Ames Research Center

Kepler-1649c is only 1.06 times Earth's size and gets 75% of the stellar energy that our planet gets from the sun. This combination makes the newly discovered world really rather special.

"There are other exoplanets estimated to be closer to Earth in size, such as TRAPPIST-1f and, by some calculations, Teegarden c," NASA officials wrote in the same statement. "Others may be closer to Earth in temperature, such as TRAPPIST-1d and TOI 700d. But there is no other exoplanet that is considered to be closer to Earth in both of these values that also lies in the habitable zone of its system."