In “A ‘major milestone’ in search for Earth’s twin” (MSNBC, December 5, 2011), Mike Wall reports
NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star’s habitable zone — that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist — and found more than 1,000 new exoplanet candidates, researchers announced Monday.
The potentially habitable alien world, a first for Kepler, orbits a star very much like our own sun. The discovery brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own — one that could conceivably harbor life, scientists said.
“We’re getting closer and closer to discovering the so-called ‘Goldilocks planet,'” Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said during a news conference on Monday.
Kepler will be making observations for a while yet to come; its nominal mission is set to end in November 2012, but the Kepler team is preparing a proposal to extend the instrument’s operations for another year or more.
Kepler’s finds should only get more exciting as time goes on, researchers say.
Okay. Got it.
See also: Exoplanets: Could they support life that has a different chemical composition?