Danish scientists help to discover Earth-like planet
Monday evening, Central European Time, NASA announced the finding of a new planet with properties resembling those of Earth. Led by William J. Borucki, the Kepler science team at NASA Ames Research Center in California includes seven researchers from Aarhus University and one from University of Copenhagen.
Possibility of primitive life
According to NASA, the discovery of the new planet is comparable to archaeologists finding the holy grail.
Joergen Christensen-Dalsgaard - one of the seven Danish researchers who have contributed to the discovery - is excited: “The planet's surface temperature roughly corresponds to that of the Earth, and that is what makes this discovery unique. The planet lies in what we call the ´golden hair princess-distance´ to its star, so it´s neither too hot nor too cold", he says.
In fact, the planet´s orbital distance from its star makes it possible that there may be liquid water on its surface; essential to the existence of life. - "This is the first time we find these conditions with Kepler", says Joergen Christensen-Dalsgaard. - "If there is life, it is most likely that it will be primitive and bacteria-like. But we have a feeling that this planet is as old as the Sun, so life would have had time to evolve", he says.
Atmosphere to be investigated
Future satellites will be designed to find answers to whether there is life on the newly discovered planet. - "We need to study the planet's atmosphere to determine if there is ozone or methane present", says Joergen Christensen-Dalsgaard. - "If there is, it will support the possibility of life, because it´s very difficult to maintain life without", he says.
Planet´s star is like our Sun
The Danish researchers have helped to determine the properties of the planet´s star and thus the planet's characteristics. The planet's star is slightly brighter than our sun, while the planet's diameter is about 2.5 times larger than Earth. Its size and the fact that its sun resembles our sun, will give us a whole new understanding of Earth's location in the universe, says the researchers.
- Visit the Kepler Mission´s homepage at kepler.nasa.gov/
- Visit department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University
- English-taught Master´s in Astronomy, University of Copenhagen
About the Kepler Mission
The Kepler spacecraft is an American space observatory, the space-based portion of NASA's Kepler Mission to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft was launched on March 7, 2009 with a planned mission lifetime of at least 3.5 years. The Kepler mission is "specifically designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover dozens of Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets." Source: Wikipidia
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