Kepler Finds Earth-Sized Planets, But These Aren't Earth's Twins

[Photo: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech]
The Kepler space telescope must be NASA's most prized possession right now. A few weeks ago, it found several possibly habitable planets in distant solar systems; now it discovered two planets that are not only very similar to Earth, but also orbit a star that's much like the our Sun.

For the time being, the two newly discoverd planets are called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, and are part of a five-planet solar system called Kepler-20, which is 1,000 light years from the Earth and located in the constellation Lyra. Kepler-20e is a little smaller than Venus in size, and orbits its host star every 6.1 days . Meanwhile, Kepler-20f is somehwat bigger than Earth and takes a slightly longer 19.6 days to orbit the Sun-like star. NASA believes both planets are quite rocky, terrain-wise, much like our own planet.

Don't start packing your bags just yet, though. Unfortunately, since these planets are so close to their star, they are much too hot to harbor life. Kepler-20e is a scorching 1,400 fahrenheit, and while Kepler-20f is a little further away from the star, it's still hardly chilly at 800 fahrenheit.

The other planets within Kepler-20 are also pretty hot, with the planet furthest away taking just 77 days to do a full orbit of its star. The star in question is from the same star variety as the Sun, however it is much smaller and also cooler.

While these planets may not be habitable, it certainly goes to show what the Kepler telescope is capable of discovering. Watch an artist's rendering of the Kepler-20 solar system on NASA's website.

[NASA]

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