Tuesday | May 31, 2016
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Astronomers discover potentially habitable, Earth-sized planet

Two Mauna Kea observatories confirmed this week the discovery of the first, potentially habitable, Earth-sized planet found outside our solar system.

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” said Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, who led a paper on the discovery published in the current issue of the journal Science.

The Hawaii Island-based W.M. Keck and Gemini observatories participated in collecting and analyzing data to confirm the initial discovery, made using the Kepler Space Telescope, according to Keck’s communications officer Steve Jefferson.

“Kepler was launched by NASA for the purpose of discovering how many planets are existing around stars like the sun within 300 light years of us. Since then, it’s been doing this crazy busy survey, hitting on potential candidates constantly,” he said.

To date, however, this is the first Earth-sized exoplanet verified to be within a potentially habitable region of another star, making for a momentous step in the ongoing search for life elsewhere in the