Space & Astronomy
Earth-like planets could be right next door
By T.K. Randall
February 7, 2013 · 34 comments
Image Credit: NASA
Astronomers have determined that the nearest Earth-like planet could be only 13 light years away.
The claim was made based on research using data from NASA's Kepler telescope. Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics determined that six percent of red dwarf stars are home to habitable worlds and worked out the statistical probabilities from that. Red dwarf stars are smaller, colder and dimmer than our Sun, but they are highly abundant with more than 75 million of them in our galaxy alone.
"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet," said lead author Courtney Dressing. "Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted."
Dressing culled the Kepler catalog of 158,000 target stars to identify all the red dwarfs. She then reanalyzed those stars to calculate more accurate sizes and temperatures. She found that almost all of those stars were smaller and cooler than previously thought.
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