back to article NASA confirms first Earth candidate in habitable zone

NASA’s Kepler mission has spotted the first possibility for a planet to escape to if it turns out the Mayans were right about 2012. Artist's concept of Kepler 22b Artist's concept of Kepler 22b. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech The mission has confirmed the first planet in the so-called ‘habitable zone’ around a star – the …


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  1. Suburban Inmate

    Assuming internet data leaks out to space via sattelite links and whatnot... What's the odds that in 1200 year's we'll pick up a "Piss off puny earthlings!" transmission?

  2. I_am_Chris


    When do we get to move in? What are the neighbours like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Vacant posession

      Last owners moved out, nearest neighbours approximately 600 light years away, always coming over to borrow cups of energy and, frankly, a right pain in the arse with ideas above their station.

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Thankfully Bebo is now bankrupt

    Let's hope we do not spray this one with radio drivel and gibberish. Though 600 light years is 1300+ years to get back a near-relativistic projectile. We should be capable of dealing with it by that time (if we do not nuke ourselves into oblivion before that or get one from Giliese).

  4. dssf

    290-day year?

    Assuming escappes from Earth get there (assuming we have 100 years to come up with technology for a generational ship of reasonable speed and ability to not get destroyed en route), accountants and finaciers will have to rethink amortization and other rules, hehehe. Voting cycles will be fracked, too.

    Even if there is water, what of its composition. Doesn't mean it'll have salinity. It could have "Strontinity" or some other composition.

    This brings up thoughts I had the other night. Suppose a high-speed (sublight) craft ran into a body of floating water. Yes, in space. Yes, I know space if gymongous, astronomically boundless all things considered. But, suppose the ship lacks the Trek NCC-1701 forward-sweeping deflector shield and navigation array tech to detect a water wall maybe 5 or 6 feet thick.

    I also thought, "How might the craft contact this "sheet" or thick cloud? Bump it? Graze it? Slam? Would it be a scraping off of craft wall, or impact compression? Either way, it likely would not be pretty.

    I'd say that multigenerartional escapes better be multi ship, 2 or 3 per escape vector on launch, and then a 4 or 5 light-year path separation and 1-month separation to allow ahead and astern ships to react to something in the way ahead or closing from the rear, but avoidable. Maybe two will arrive intact and safe/sound. Also, if each has room to accept 1/3 of the total of another, then with a 2-week to 1-month separation, one might feasibly slow or accelerate to rescue SOME of the survivors, or if no survivors, scavenge their hull (if possible) and hopefully be able to regain speed without an appreciable return to the planned arrival window.

    In addition to that, there probably should be 10 escape candidate worlds, hopefully affordably reachable by the htime we have the tech to get to the nearest and intermediate, hospitable worlds. Ones that are not already inhabited, ones that do not know of and won't be subject to our bloodied, ruthless, warring aspects. If we have descendants who leave only to transplant our worst attributes to a new but occupied world, we don't deserve to leave here AT ALL.

    1. Poor Coco

      1. The “wall of water” would be a solid sphere of ice.

      2. You don’t need fancy Star Trek scanners, unless you count radar amongst their ilk.

      3. Any impact other than a deliberate landing would be catastrophe.

      4. Four or five LIGHT-YEAR path separation? Further apart than Sol and Proxima Centauri? That really disqualifies any sort of assertion the ships are “together”. And I don’t know what you mean by 1-month separation — by definition, any separation by a light-year means much more than a year separates them, unless they are neutrinos.

      The economics of interstellar travel are such that — in my opinion — no biological crew will ever fly between the stars. I think it would be vastly more economical for humans to discover (a) how to build space-hardened computers that can match human intellect in no more than 1kg of mass, power supply and shielding excluded, and (b) transfer our consciousness into them, and (c) build MUCH tinier spacecraft to carry the eHumans to other worlds — as researchers and visitors, not invaders.

      This sounds like preposterous hand-waving, but when you consider that 70 years ago the word “computer” was a job title and not a machine, then taking a century or two of development to meet points (a) and (b) will be more than enough to compensate for the savings of the tiny craft in (c).

      Our future is in the stars, if we can survive — and our survival, I feel, is contingent on our abandonment of biology for ourselves.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "I also thought, "How might the craft contact this "sheet" or thick cloud? Bump it? Graze it? Slam? Would it be a scraping off of craft wall, or impact compression? Either way, it likely would not be pretty."

      At any significant fraction of light-speed, such an impact would be indistinguishable from an ultra-intense bombardment of cosmic rays. And by "ultra-intense" I mean "having kinetic energy equivalent to rather more nuclear bombs than Dr Strangelove could possibly dream of in his wildest imagination".

      Of course, to have accelerated your craft to that speed in the first place, you'd have deployed even larger amounts of energy yourself. The whole proposal is *many* orders of magnitude more violent than anything humans have unleashed before and the suggestion is that we'd be completely in control.

      Maybe one day but (returning to the article) probably not in time for 2012.

    3. Ru

      Who are you to decide what we deserve?

      That aside, hitting anything with any non-trivial mass at high sublight speeds will be a bit like being nuked, only without the fission byproducts. Hitting a dense cloud will be a little more like having someone turn a huge particle accelerator on you; the end result will be pretty much the same in either case.

    4. Craig Chambers
      Thumb Down

      Water = ice

      Any ship not designed to avoid/deflect ice in space is doomed.

      I'm no physicist, but I'm not sure how you expect to get (liquid) water in any volume in space.

      Liquid water would need to be near to a heat source capable of making it liquid. Free floating in space without something to shield it (e.g. Earth's magnetosphere) , it would be rapidly boiled away by the solar wind (c.f. a comet's tail).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its more than 600 light years away

    Why do the press keep announcing these exoplanets and treating them like they were just a 20 minute walk away?

    And the erroneous and baseless assumptions! Venus is more or less in OUR habitable zone, but look at the state its in. And liquid water? Impossible to tell with any certainty if it has. As if that's the *only* consideration to being a habitable environment anyway, Say it doesn't have a helpful magnetosphere -- and is bathed in lethal (for us) high-energy stellar and cosmic radiation.

    Who *cares* if its there or not? It isn't as if our current level of technology makes its existence meaningful or helpful.

    Please don't misunderstand: I'm a trained scientist and I love astrophysics and exoplanetary discoveries -- but why do the press have to keep making out as if each new one were somehow New Earth or that we are ever going there any time ever?

    1. Joe Cooper


      Kepler discoveries planets using the transit method and if I understand it right, they can observe its atmosphere with follow-up studies (by other 'scopes).

      So if they keep searching and find one with a good chunk of oxygen and conditions for plant life, than, that's interesting and we don't have to say "sample size of one" anymore.

      As for the press, at least they stopped declaring "new Earth" with every star-hugging hellhole with a 6-day "year".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Have you ever read old (pre-1970) sci-fi?

      > Venus is more or less in OUR habitable zone, but look at the state its in.

      > ... why do the press have to keep making out as if each new [exoplanet] were somehow New Earth or that we are ever going there any time ever?

      Because our dreams of terraforming and colonizing Mars and Venus have been squashed by real science, and exoplanets are the best available substitutes. Spirit and Opportunity (and now Curiosity) are just the latest in a long line of mystery-killers who rob non-scientists of beautiful dreams without returning anything tangible in return. The drive to explore can be powerful, and although some people can sublimate that drive to abstract or remote learning and discovery at home, others still dream of real, physical exploration someplace genuinely new. Sure it's impossible right now, but we can imagine a world in which it is not.

      "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."

      F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up" (1936)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        But its also true clinically that anyone who can hold two opposing ideas in the mind and still be functional is also displaying a classic symptom of the true psychopath.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          RE: Agreed

          "But its also true clinically that anyone who can hold two opposing ideas in the mind and still be functional is also displaying a classic symptom of the true psychopath"

          Oh Crap!

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          That depends what you mean by "hold". In the quote, it is fairly obvious that "hold" means simply "understand". If you mean "believe wholeheartedly", then yes, that would be worrying.

          (FWIW, I regard the truly scientific viewpoint as one that can hold *no* idea. That is, if you can see a problem and not respond by just making up some bollocks just-so story, but instead say "OK, I don't currently know the answer to that one. I'll leave the mental pigeon-hole empty for now." then congratulations, you've just surpassed most of the human race.)

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Terraforming (at least of Mars) is still within the realms of possibility, shirley? Or did I miss that memo?

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Mars' core has solidified. Attempting to generate a breathable atmosphere there is a futile exercise as, in the absence of a magnetosphere, it'll blow away in the solar wind.

          Just like its original atmosphere did.

          1. Tom 38

            In my mind we can restart Mars' core by bombarding it with asteroids taken from the main belt, handily located close (ish) to Mars. This will increase the mass of Mars, bringing g closer to that of Earth, hopefully restart the core and push it closer towards the Sun, increasing the surface temperature.

            Gradually start introducing icy asteroids, or chunks stripped from icy moons in order to introduce water and water vapour into the atmosphere. Extract a few billion tons of CO₂ from Venus, and dump that in the atmosphere.

            Some of us haven't given up our dreams of terra-forming Mars*

            * Having said that, the entire mass of the main belt is less than 6% of Earth's mass, so it may not be enough. Back to the drawing board, Pinky…

          2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge


            OK, so not terraforming the *whole* planet, but better than nothing.

            Or have I watched Total Recall too many times?

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          This focus on making planets suitable for biological life presumes that we never solve the AI problem. If you can re-deploy human intelligence onto new hardware of your choosing, you can make the new body fit the environment rather than the reverse.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's existence is meaningful from a biological standpoint. It's also a refinement of Drake's equation. Just because the press tends to be ignorant and sensationalizes science stories, does not make this any less important to certain fields. Finding any earth-like planets would help understand our own. We could either send probes so that future generations could study the planet or to possibly seed another system (morality aside on that one).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "We could either send probes so that future generations could study the planet or to possibly seed another system (morality aside on that one)."

        What, super-luminal ones?

        How long do you estimate, in billions of years, would it take to drive a current sub-luminal man-made object 600 light years? Even at twice the current speeds possible it would take entire epochs of time! You would seriously expect humanity, its cultures, the Earth and its sun to still even be here?

        That's just crazy! Sorry, but it is.

        Unless we can crack the highly unlikely* super-luminal trick we're not going any further than the end of the garden path!

        * I personally suspect FTL travel may be possible but not in the way you might think.

  6. Bodger
    Thumb Up

    Catch 22b

    Well done NASA, next job Hyperdrive.......

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    600LY, but what is that

    In Congressional election cycles.

    About the *only* measure of time that the US gov is concerned with.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      It's more than one, which means the US gov *won't* be concerned with it.

    2. hplasm
      Thumb Up

      +1 internets

      for you!

  8. Gary F

    No point in planning to send a probe there then

    The time a probe reaches this planet in 600 years (even travelling at light speed) we should have invented FTL travel years before then which would overtake any probe we'd have sent out in that direction.

    In fact we could have invented trans-galactic teleportation or artificial wormholes by then too. It's sad that in our short life times we just have to settle for vague data collected by devices within our solar system and inject a little imagination to wonder what really goes on on Kepler 22b. Maybe it's the Land of the Giants if the planet is 2x bigger than ours? ;-)

    1. dssf

      Trans-galactic teleportation?

      I've already pre-patented that -- pre, because if I file, then my identiy would be discovered before I can escape. In my basement, i'm applying the final touches on my sub-space, telescoping "astral womb". It'll be similar to a quantum slipstreem generator and allow bypass of astral eddies, but offers benefits of cellular rejuvenation, age-process-slowing, and a deeper benefit of making you "astrally-one" with those in the same energy capsule.

      I stole the basic technology from some thing named Brokork (masquerading as a Papal functionary), another creature named Gluerk (masquerading as an oxygen bar proprietor), and Kluntortstruss (operating a multi-continent string of organ harvesting and bio-pharmaceutical research facilities), and a few others undeserving of being named.

      Stay tuned...

    2. Dave Murray Silver badge

      larger = stronger gravity

      So more likely the land of short, squat but very muscular people.

      1. Local Group

        People or bugs?

        Ants are short, squat and very muscular. But they are bugs, not people.

        They can organize themselves into military units and eat people.

        They are probably awaiting our arrival via the Fed Ex worm hole right now.

        Being stripped to the bone by carnivorous insects is almost as painful as being bone stripped by carnivorous Kardashians.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        "larger = stronger gravity"

        Er no. More massive = stronger gravity. How big it is tells us nothing here, unless its density is also known.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Which is why...

      ...we should be focussing our efforts on passive observation. Let's say we find some more candidates a bit closer, at 100 light years away.

      How big a telescope array would you need to build to be able to resolve, say, 1km at 100 light years? That should be enough to spot a large city.

      I reckon 100 light years ~= 1e15 km, so, the angular resolution would need to be 1e-15

      Using sin theta = 1.22 lambda / D, and using lambda = 400e-9 (400nm for visible light), I reckon D ~= 500,000km, or about 38 times the diameter of the earth. Someone correct me if that's wrong.

      Stick a few dishes at Lagrange points? (I haven't worked out how big they need to be to collect a useful amount of light though)

      If we can do that, then of course they can spy on us too. So then we just need to write some dot-matrix messages using 1km-sized dots.

  9. Matthew Anderson

    So it would only take around 5100000 earth years to travel there. Boost.

    1. atomic jam
      Paris Hilton

      @"it would only take around 5100000 earth years..."

      So... take a packed lunch, flask and a change of underwear.

      Paris cause it's bound to get lonely on the way there.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What kind of broadband bandwidth is available there?

  11. Eddy Ito

    Feeling down

    "2.4 times the size of Earth"

    I assume by size they are referring to the diameter which would make the mass and therefore the force of gravity 13.8 times as great. That would make our barn cat tip the scales at nearly 15 stone. At that weight quaffing a pint would be quite a workout.

    1. Joe Cooper


      They almost always mean mass.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      They do mean radius, but the mass depends on the density

      This one was found by occlusion, so we only know the approx. radius but nothing about what it's made of.

      If it's mostly gaseous, then the density will be much lower than Earth and the 'surface' gravity may not be much higher than Earth.

      On the other hand, surface pressure would be considerably higher so still not exactly healthy to be out in.

      The really interesting results will come later, once we're able to analyse the light and work out rough composition - for example, if there is free oxygen then it's a pretty good bet there's life!

      Not that we could pop over for a visit or even give them a 'phone call - 1200 year ping time is a bit of a bummer.

    3. pabc

      assuming it has the same density as Earth? If it's 13.8 time less dense then the gravitational pull would be the same?

    4. Colin Miller

      But *surfcace* gravity

      is inversely proportional to the square of the radius of the planet. Thus, assuming that Kelper 22b's density is the same as the Earth, then the surface gravity is 2.4 times Earth's, to which humans can probably adapt.

      g_surface = (4/3) * pi * G * density * radius

  12. Anonymous Coward

    600 lights years!

    Lets look at this a second, firstly lets assume that it is in a good condition could we within our current abilities actually get there? no, but what exactly is keeping us back, we could build fuck of great big levels of shielding, we could potentially build a powerplant depending on its engines, we could potentially give it the ability to make O2 and food if need be so is it really just down to propulsion and, well, Us?

    lets take on propulsion, its within our ability to build a system that over time gains great levels of speed, all be it no where near the speed of light so the main barrier is us, we dont live that long, so what we really need is some kind of stasis / cryo sleep type of thing, infact that would help us with quite a bit really, i wonder how much research is getting done on it.

    you know, as humans we are pretty damn good at doing things if we really put our mind to it, its a shame we have grown as a race in to this, it kinda makes you wonder what if we did take some risks an go for the hard ball with this kinda thing.

    1. Ragarath


      Why stasis or cryo? Can't we just send a generation ship! That takes the us out of the equation too.

      And to be honest in 600years (assuming the craft got near to c) then I darn well hope we would have better options of getting there. Most likely (at least in my head) before that generation ship got there.

      To be honest the real show stopper is us working together as a unified planet rather than acting like kids fighting over toys. We have made great strides in this area but there is a heck of a lot more work to do.

    2. Helena Handcart

      Woot! Let's go, I can't wait for the colonists to report back with blogs of humanity's first extra-solar colony. What, it'll take 600 years to upload to Wordpress? Meh, no wonder my Facebook friend request hasn't been picked up.

      Actaully... anyone up for building the 'B' ark...?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "you know, as humans we are pretty damn good at doing things if we really put our mind to it"

      I know. Let's just build a stable wormhole and give all that tedious cryo and generational mucking about the brush-off. We could be there in fifteen minutes!

      Since we're so damn good at stuff.

      Sadly there is a cosmic gulf between our dreams and our abilities, And given the sort of animal we are that's probably all for the good. For everyone. Including, ultimately, ourselves.

      We may do it one day but we'll have to be more tolerant and kinder as a species.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not to worry

    I am sure our tossers in government are, even now, working on a way of taxing any life on other planets

  14. Dani Eder

    @Eddy Ho - no, gravity goes up linearly with diameter for constant density. Mass goes up as cube of diameter, but gravity decreases as inverse square of diameter, leaving net of linear increase. So surface gravity would be 2.4 time Earth if it had the same density.

    Kepler can only find planets whose orbit is edge-on, so that it transits in front of the star and we can notice the light drop when that happens. Assuming planet orbits are randomly oriented, there will be a LOT more of them Kepler will never see. In the case of the Sun and Earth, the odds are 360:1 against it lining up properly. Again, assuming stars with habitable zone planets are randomly distributed, we should expect to find one 7 times closer to Earth for each one Kepler sees, and 360 others at distances in between.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      I think the odds are better than that

      At least, inside our own galaxy.

      Surely rotational inertia will tend to ensure most systems are roughly planar with the galaxy rotation, similar to how our system has almost everything in the plane of the ecliptic

      So we should see transits in most systems at the same Z as us.

      Higher and lower we probably won't, but it's still only a few degrees out.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        I don't think it works that way. Whilst the cloud that collapsed to form our own solar system appears to have largely collapsed about one axis, that axis itself is not oriented with the near-neighbourhood of our galaxy. (Otherwise, the Milky Way would lie in the ecliptic, too.)

  15. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    At last

    A place without TalkTalk

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No yet ... I think...

      but maybe you just gave them an idea.


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