NASA Unveils MAJOR Space Discovery - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

NASA Unveils MAJOR Space Discovery

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM - Scientists are one Earth-sized step closer to discovering a planet outside our solar system that could be suitable for life.

In a study published online Tuesday in the journal Nature, NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, two exoplanets -- planets outside the Solar System -- that are about the size of Earth and orbit a star similar to the sun.

"This is a most important milestone," Francois Fressin, the lead author of the paper describing the planets, told HuffPost. "It demonstrates for the first time that Earth-sized planets exist around other stars, and secondly that we are now able to detect them."

Scientists detected the new planets using data from the Kepler spacecraft, a space telescope with a mission to "search for habitable planets."

From the Associated Press:

Since it was launched in 2009, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope has found evidence of dozens of possible Earth-sized planets. But Fressin's report is the first to provide confirmation, said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington. He's a member of the Kepler science team but not an author of the paper.

The two new planets are part of a five-planet system located about 1,000 light years away.

According to NASA, Kepler-20e has a radius .87 times that of Earth, while Kepler-20f has a radius 1.03 times that of Earth. The former orbits its sun-like star about every six days, and the latter orbits it roughly every 20 days. click here to read more

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