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Is Kepler-62f Exoplanet The Next Habitable World?

Jun 07, 2016 05:23 AM EDT
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NASA's Kepler Space Telescope is responsible for searching the universe for possible "habitable" and Earth-like exoplanets.

From more than 2,000 exoplanets discovered, there are those who stand out. In 2013, NASA considered Kepler 62f as one of the candidates for 'small habitable planets'. Recently, a team of researchers from the University of California published a study that says the atmospheric property of Kepler 62f might indeed be warm enough to hold water and be conducive to human life.

According to NASA, there were eight Earth-like habitable exoplanet candidates discovered, including Kepler 62f.

"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.

NASA's confidence in the existence of a potential Earth-like habitable planet was the inspiration behind the recently published study by the University of California.

Kepler-62f is about 40 percent larger than the Earth and is approximately 1,200 light-years away, located within the Lyra constellation.  This celestial body is said to possess water and because of that, lives may also thrive. But aside from water, other factors should be considered before life can thrive, just like the heat emissions by the star, the orbit of the planet and the overall atmospheric condition.

Kepler-62f is located farther away from the Sun, and to be livable, it has to contain a higher amount of carbon dioxide for the surface to be warm enough to hold water.  

"We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water," said lead author Aomawa Shields, in an interview with Space.com. "This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet," Shields added.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers run simulations pattern over existing climate models. From the models, they were able to figure out that the said exoplanets need to have three to five times thicker atmosphere than that of the Earth to be able to sustain life.

With the new findings of the researchers from the University of California, NASA is confident that it is only a matter of time before a new planet conducive for manking will emerge from hiding. 

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