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So far in the search for life elsewhere in the universe, astronomers have found scores of large planets. Until now, many have been more like giant Jupiter than Earth. But NASA’s Kepler space telescope has identified a new planet circling a star 560 light-years away that is comparatively Earth-like. The planet, dubbed Kepler-10b, is probably not inhabited because it is very close to the star it orbits and has a surface temperature of about 2,500 degrees, points out NPR.
Still, “the discovery of Kepler-10b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own,” says Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington (via news release). “Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come.”
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Ball Aerospace and Technologies in Boulder developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Bill Posse, the director of mission operations and data systems at CU, tells 9News, “Kepler’s mission is to find Earth-like planets in an Earth-like orbit, and this is the first time we’ve actually seen what is an Earth-like planet in the sense it’s a solid surface; it’s not made up of gas.”