A trio of potentially habitable planets discovered by the orbiting Kepler space observatory have conditions that might be right for Earth-type life to exist there. The two such planets in the Kepler-62 system might be covered by a global ocean.
Kepler-62 is a red dwarf, only 20 percent as bright as the sun. Both Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f orbit within the star’s habitable zone, and both are likely covered by a global ocean. Kepler-62 is located 1,200 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Lyra. [See photos of the potentially habitable worlds]
The Kepler-69 system contains one known planet in that star's habitable zone. Kepler-69 is a sun-like star located 2,700 light-years away, in the constellation Cygnus.
The $600 million Kepler spacecraft was launched in March 2009 to search for Earth-type planets that orbit within the habitable zones of their parent stars. As of April 2013, Kepler data has uncovered more than 2,700 potential planets, with about 120 of them having been confirmed to date (although mission scientists expect that more than 90 percent of the planets detected are real and not illusions in the data).
The Kepler mission is named after the famed 17th-century Johannes Kepler, whose discoveries were pivotal to the modern understanding of how planets move around stars.
- Alien Planet Quiz: Are You an Exoplanet Expert?
- Kepler Reveals Lots of Planets: Some Habitable?
- Exoplanet Art: The Illustrations of Lynette Cook