Last week, NASA scientists announced the discovery of a new planet capable of supporting life (click here to read more about the so-called Christmas Planet). The planet was found using the Kepler Space Telescope, a telescope specifically built to find planets orbiting other stars. But this planet was not NASA’s only Christmas gift to astronomers.
The Kepler Space Telescope is also monitoring a planet candidate that could be slightly smaller than Earth. Up until now, every new planet discovered outside our Solar System has been larger—usually much larger—than Earth. Even the Christmas Planet is over twice Earth’s size.
While planet KOI-70.04 is unconfirmed, it still shows that we are getting better at finding new planets, even the small ones. In the very near future, NASA should be able to confirm the existence of truly Earth equivalent planets, with the right size, the right temperature, and the right chemical composition to make life comfortable for us.
P.S. In case you were wondering, KOI stands for Kepler Object of Interest, and the numbers presumably represent the 70th star Kepler is watching and the 4th planet candidate discovered in orbit of that star. Three other planets have already been confirmed in this star system, and the Kepler team is monitoring a fifth planet candidate by the name of KOI-70.05.
P.P.S. If you decide to move to Planet KOI-70.04, bring an air conditioner or lots of fans. Experts estimate the surface temperature is 600 °C.