Red Dwarf Planet The artist’s conception shows a hypothetical planet with two moons orbiting in the habitable zone of a red dwarf star. Using publicly available data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars have an Earth-sized planet in the “habitable zone,” the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water. The majority of the sun’s closest stellar neighbors are red dwarfs. Researchers now believe that an Earth-size planet with a moderate temperature may be just 13 light-years away. Astronomers don’t know if life could exist on a planet orbiting a red dwarf. However, this finding suggests that the most common type of the star in the galaxy may provide many more cosmic neighborhoods to search for planets that may be like our own. Image credit: D. Aguilar/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Kepler Data Suggest Earth-size Planets May Be Next Door

02.06.2013

Using publicly available data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

The majority of the sun’s closest stellar neighbors are red dwarfs. Researchers now believe that an Earth-size planet with a moderate temperature may be just 13 light-years away.

“We don’t know if life could exist on a planet orbiting a red dwarf, but the findings pique my curiosity and leave me wondering if the cosmic cradles of life are more diverse than we humans have imagined,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

The research team analyzed 95 planet candidates in the Kepler catalog orbiting 64 red dwarf stars. Most of these candidates aren’t the right size or temperature to be considered Earth-like, as defined by the size relative to Earth and the distance from the host star. However, three candidates are both temperate and smaller than twice the size of Earth.

Read more: NASA – Kepler Data Suggest Earth-size Planets May Be Next Door.

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