An Earth-like planet 1,200 light years away “could be habitable,” researchers have said.
According to new computer simulations, Kepler 62f might be able to sustain life. The planet is about 40 percent larger than Earth and might have surface oceans.
Kepler 62f is the furthest of five planets orbiting a star that is smaller and cooler than our sun. It was discovered by NASA’s Kepler telescope in 2013.
But recently, simulations of the possible kinds of atmosphere that could be found on the planet have been carried out. “We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water. This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet,” stated lead researcher Dr. Aomawa Shields, from the University of California at Los Angeles, reported The Independent.
Due to its distance from its star, it would need a thick layer of carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere to keep its water from freezing, they found. The planet’s surface temperature could rise above freezing during different parts of the year, and it could bear some similarities to Earth.
Here’s the computer simulations done by the team, according to science website Phys.org:
– An atmosphere that ranges in thickness from the same as Earth’s all the way up to 12 times thicker than our planet’s.
– Various concentrations of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, ranging from the same amount as is in the Earth’s atmosphere up to 2,500 times that level.
– Several different possible configurations for its orbital path.
“But if it doesn’t have a mechanism to generate lots of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere to keep temperatures warm, and all it had was an Earth-like amount of carbon dioxide, certain orbital configurations could allow Kepler-62f’s surface temperatures to temporarily get above freezing during a portion of its year,” Shields said. “And this might help melt ice sheets formed at other times in the planet’s orbit.”
The research was published in journal Astrobiology online this week.
At least 2,300 exoplanets have been found and confirmed, but only a few dozen are known to be in the “habitable zone” that may sustain life, Shields said.