NASA’s Kepler spacecraft announced its first earth-sized planetary discovery outside this solar system. Planet Kepler-10b, is the smallest planet discovered that is not apart of our solar system.
Data gathered by the spacecraft over a nearly eight-month period, gauged size of the rocky exoplanet at about 1.4 times the size of Earth. Kepler-10b orbits its star, which is comparable to our sun, every 0.84 days. In relation to distance, Kepler 10-b is 20 times closer to its star, than Mercury to the sun.
Although Kepler10-b is not located in an inhabitable zone, Spacecraft Kepler is the foremost mission with capacity to locate Earth-size planets near or in habitable zones. Regions where liquid water can exist in a planetary system and on the planets surface are considered habitable.
Kepler’s Deputy science team lead at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Natalie Batalha, praised the mission in a press release saying, “All of Kepler’s best capabilities have converged to yield the first solid evidence of a rocky planet orbiting a star other than our sun.” She also acknowledged the dedication of the crew as they sought to decipher to collected data. Batalha said of the team, “The Kepler team made a commitment in 2010 about finding the telltale signatures of small planets in the data, and it’s beginning to pay off”.
Kepler’s photometer determined Kepler 10b to be a planet rather than a star after measuring the consistency of the brightness. The photometer took measurements of the decrease in its brightness as other planets orbited in front of the planet and the length of time between consecutive dips. This data produced the distance from Kepler 10-b to its star.
The discovery marks a tremendous milestone for NASA as the organization struggles to restructure after significant program cuts by the Obama Administration.