‘Earth-like’ Blue Planets Discovered Orbiting Distant Star

Posted: April 19, 2013 by tallbloke in Astronomy, Astrophysics, atmosphere
Tags: ,

From the Telegraph:

Two Earth-like planets thought to be covered in water have been discovered orbiting a distant star and may even have the right conditions to support life.
blue-planet

Astronomers believe the two ocean dominated worlds, which are around one and a half times the size of Earth, lie within the so-called Goldilocks zone around their star.

This is the distance from the star where it would be neither too hot nor too cold for there to be liquid water on the planet surface.

Scientists using Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, which has been searching for habitable planets outside our solar system, spotted the two planets orbiting a star called Kepler-62 1,200 light years away.

One of the planets – called Kepler-62f – is 1.4 times larger than the Earth and may even be a rocky planet while another, called Kepler-62e, is 1.6 times the size of Earth and is closer to the star.

They found three other planets orbiting the same star – which is slightly smaller and cooler than our sun.
By calculating the amount of light the planets blocked out as they passed in front of their star, astronomers were able to calculate their size and orbit.

Computer modelling by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, suggests the two new planets may be covered in global oceans.

Read the rest here

Comments
  1. Kon Dealer says:

    Wow!

    Real science!

  2. tallbloke says:

    For me, the really interesting facts are the sizes of the planets. More in a forthcoming post.

  3. Joe Lalonde says:

    TB,

    I have been telling you that our planet was also bigger in the past due to MUCH more water…

  4. michael hart says:

    Exciting but, ummm, “Computer modelling […] suggests the two new planets may be covered in global oceans.”

    Being something of a sceptic, “maybe” sounds a bit strong for me until I see some more tangible evidence. In the meantime I’ll go with “conceivably”.

  5. Joe Lalonde says:

    TB,

    These would be very young planets as water has yet to loose enough to space for land to appear.
    Our evolution is from water. This is why our bodies are mostly composed of it.

    Salt is a residue that can be used as a proxy for back dating how much water was here and the time line of it’s loss to space.
    Back dating in calculation can also tell where our planet was back at the beginning and how fast it was rotating.
    The advent of more water would hinder the lopsidedness of our land mass which would effect the density of wobbling.

    [Reply] Too many unknowns to do any of these calcs you propose.

  6. Sparks says:

    Some reference for the distance:

    1.200 Light years equates to.

    0.37 parsecs.
    75.887.61 astronomical units.
    11.352.634.085.855.23 kilometers.
    7.054.199.776.962.06 miles

    How much fuel would be needed to get there?

    [Reply] Long trip for a swim.

  7. Sparks says:

    Any clues on the forthcoming post?

    [Reply] It’s a followup to the Phi/Fibonacci in the solar system thread.

  8. marksackler says:

    And yet I saw one article that speculated these planets might be very old becuase it’s star is 2.5 billion years older than our sun. Sadly, at a distance of 1200 light years we won’t be vacationing there any time soon. 😦

  9. tallbloke says:

    Welcome Mark:
    Sadly, at a distance of 1200 light years we won’t be vacationing there any time soon

    It would lend a whole new meaning to ‘infinity pool’ wouldnt it? 🙂

    The Harvard press release has some more detail
    http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201311.html
    Kepler-62 is a type K star slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. The two water worlds, designated Kepler-62e and -62f, orbit the star every 122 and 267 days, respectively.

    They were found by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which detects planets that transit or cross the face of their host star. Measuring a transit tells astronomers the size of the planet relative to its star.

    Kepler-62e is 60 percent larger than the Earth while Kepler-62f is about 40 percent larger, making both of them “super-Earths.” They are too small for their masses to be measured, but astronomers expect them to be composed of rock and water, without a significant gaseous envelope.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________-

    Those orbital periods put the ratio of their orbital distances (1.68) not so very far from Phi (1.618)

  10. marksackler says:

    Indeed. Sorry for the typos. I am totally anal about proofreading posts to my blog and woefully sloppy about comments on other blogs.

    [Reply] No problem, saw one typo, now fixed. – TB

  11. ntesdorf says:

    If we could find someone guarranteed to live to 600 years old on Earth, and one on their planet, we could meet half way!

  12. Ned Nikolov says:

    Well, the presence of liquid water (oceans) on the surface of a planet requires that the average temperature be above freezing (> 273.15 k) and the mean surface pressure be greater than 612 Pa to meet the triple point of water.

    In other words, one cannot have liquid oceans without a sizable atmospheric pressure. Of course, pressure also determines (along with the incoming radiation from the star) the average surface temperature on a planet. This means that, without knowing the air pressure at the surface of these exo-planets, we cannot really say anything about their habitability! Unfortunately, our current telescopes are not powerful enough to allow meaningful measurements of any atmospheric properties at such distances …

  13. Gerry says:

    The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog now lists nine potentially habitable exoplanets!:
    http://phl.upr.edu/projects/habitable-exoplanets-catalog

    Kepler-62e joins Gliese 581 g as a second exoplanet with an Earth Similarity Index of 0.82.
    See http://phl.upr.edu/projects/earth-similarity-index-esi

    The little HEC catalog of most interesting distant planets is steadily growing in size.

  14. Gerry says:

    I hope other readers have not lost interest in potentially habitable exoplanets just because two of them are 1200 light years away.

    Gliese 581 g, with the same ESI of 0.82 as Kepler-62 e is “only” 20.2 light years from us, and Tau Ceti e, ESI = 0.74, is a relatively close Milky Way neighbor at 11.9 light years distance:)

    Take a look at
    http://phl.upr.edu/projects/habitable-exoplanets-catalog/results
    for distances, temperatures, and other interesting potentially habitable exoplanet information.

  15. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Gerry. Baby steps first. There is talk of a one way trip to Mars to star in reality TV…

  16. Gerry says:

    Here’s something else that we humans are just now starting to realize. If there is advanced intelligent life on any exoplanet in our galaxy that orbits its sun in an orbital plane that intersects the ecliptic plane near the line between their sun and our sun, they are undoubtedly capable of determining the same kind of information about Earth that we can presently determine about their planet.

    In fact, they obviously only need to have technologies a hundred years or so more advanced than ours to learn much more about our planet than we presently know about their planet(s). In the near future, we will be learning much more about exoplanets, but advanced civilizations that live on some of them may already know much more about our planet (and about us) than we know about their planet, or even about their very existence.

    -Gerry Pease