Yesterday (December 6, 2011), NASA announced the discovery of yet another planet outside our Solar System that might be able to support life. Its name is Kepler 22 b. Along with Gliese 581 d and HD 85512 b, this brings the total to three.
We do not know for sure that this new planet has life. We don’t even know if it has liquid water or an oxygen nitrogen atmosphere. We only know that it’s in the Goldilocks Zone of its parent star, the region where it’s not too hot and not too cold but just right for organic life to develop.
William Borucki, chief scientist for the team that discovered this planet, has been quoted saying, “It’s a great gift. We consider this sort of our Christmas planet.” The bigger news, at least in my opinion, is that his team has a list of over 2,000 more possible planets. Even if only half are confirmed, that’s still a lot of new worlds to study.
As for what life might exist on the Christmas Planet, even if its biochemistry is similar to ours it may not look human. It may look more like this octopus that recently crawled out of the water and went for a brief stroll on land.
For more information on Kepler 22 b, the “Christmas Planet,” click here. For artist representations of various planets discovered by the Kepler Mission, click here. For more on octopi walking on land, click here.