Scientists May Have Discovered A Near Mirror Image of Earth and Our Sun

Ethen Kim Lieser

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Scientists have pinpointed a faraway exoplanet that closely resembles our planet, orbiting a star that closely resembles our sun.

Given the name KOI-456.04, this intriguing exoplanet circles the star Kepler-160, located about 3,000 light-years away. The planet’s orbital period is similar to Earth’s, and it is slightly bigger than our planet—but still less than twice the size.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, was led by astrophysicist René Heller of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany.

The Max Planck Institute press release described KOI-456.04 as “more than just another potentially habitable world.”

Also, given the star’s light intensity, it “is very much like the daylight seen on our home planet.” The amount of light received from its host star is about 93 percent of the sunlight received on Earth.

Despite this information, scientists still aren’t able to tell whether KOI-456.04 could support life, but the release stated that it looks like a strong candidate. Being in the habitable zone, if there is water, it could be in liquid form.

“(KOI-456.04) is relatively large compared to many other planets that are considered potentially habitable,” Heller said in a release. “But it’s the combination of this less-than-double the size of the Earth planet and its solar type host star that make it so special and familiar.”

Before the discovery of KOI-456.04, scientists had already found two exoplanets that orbit Kepler-160, but they were found to be too hot for habitability. After looking at the data, the team now suspects there are four planets in the system.

Many of the other discovered Earth-like exoplanets orbit red dwarf stars, which are known to have flare-ups that could negatively impact life and make them uninhabitable.

The sun-like Kepler-160, though, is fascinating in that regard.

“The full picture of habitability, however, involves a look at the qualities of the star too,” Heller said.

Scientists do admit that it cannot currently be ruled out completely that KOI-456.04 is in fact a statistical fluke or a systematic measurement error. The team, though, estimates that there is an 85% chance it is indeed a planet.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Image: Reuters. 

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