Astronomers Announce Discovery of Three New Super-Earths
Posted on April 19, 2013
Two new planetary systems with a total of three super-Earth-sized planets have been discovered by NASA's Kepler mission. NASA says the planets are in the "habitable zone," which means a planet orbits its star at such a distance that liquid water is possible. The new systems are Kepler-62 and Kelper-69.
Kepler-62 is located about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. It has a star that is seven billion years old and contains at least five planets: 62b, 62c, 62d, 62e and 62f. Two of the planets are super-Earth-sized. Kepler-62f is 40% larger than Earth. The astronomers say it is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is about 60% larger than Earth. An artist's concept of 62f is pictured above and an artist's concept of 62e is below.
The Kepler-69 system is located approximately 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system has two planets: 69b and 69c. Kepler-69c is 70% larger than the size of Earth and orbits in the habitable zone. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c. It has an orbit of 242 days. Here is an artist's concept of the planet Keploer-69c.
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement, "The Kepler spacecraft has certainly turned out to be a rock star of science. The discovery of these rocky planets in the habitable zone brings us a bit closer to finding a place like home. It is only a matter of time before we know if the galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth, or if we are a rarity."