This week astronomers have announced the existence of a planet discovered to be in human livable range of star not unlike our sun, with a size 2.4 times that of our Earth and a temperature of approximately 22 degrees celsius. This is the most recent in a line of possibilities for habitable planets in the realm of possibility as outlined by an international team of scientists in a paper by the name of "A Two-Tiered Approach to Assessing the Habitability of Exoplanets" as found at Mary Ann Libert Inc, publishing -- these scientists are not the same group that've discovered this newest planet, but they're sure to add the new finding to their list sooner than later. What we've got here is Kepler 22-b, a body that is what the Kepler space telescope team says is the closest we've ever gotten to discovering a planet that's like our own - an "Earth 2.0," if you will.
This planet is well within the livable range around the star it circles, the Kepler space telescope currently also studying 53 other candidates that its team reported back in February may be of similar specifications. This "22-b" planet is the first of the 54 total candidates in the study that has been formally confirmed using other telescopes, and is still part of the smaller group that remain in the study since a redefinition of the habitable zone around stars has reduced the number down to 48 since earlier this year. Kepler 22-b sits about 15% closer to the star it orbits than the Earth does to the Sun, its year consisting of 290 days to the Earth's 365.
The star this planet orbits lets off about 25% less light than our Sun does, this keeping the planet at what the BBC calls a "balmy" temperature, one that could very well support the existence of liquid water. Before the Kepler team is able to change the planet from "candidate" to "confirmed," it must wait for three passes of the planet around its star. NASA's Ames Research Center's principal investigator William Borucki noted the following on the discovery:
"Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet. The first transit was captured just three days after we declared the spacecraft operationally ready. We witnessed the defining third transit over the 2010 holiday season." - Borucki
Additional results announced at the first Kepler science conference included a total number of candidates for life-supporting planets to be 2,362. This staggering number includes 207 planets which are approximately Earth-sized, this suggesting that the number of Earth to Super-Earth sized planets in existence are much more common than previously thought. We'll be hanging out on Floston in no time - Paradise awaits us all!
BONUS: hear Borucki speak about the Kepler space-telescope here, courtesy of the BBC: