Researchers from the United States and Germany have found an exoplanet system that’s the closest comparison to our own Earth-to-sun system. The planet, which is called KOI-456.04, orbits its host star named Kepler-160 and is located a little more than 3,000 light-years away from us.
While exoplanets are being discovered at a pretty fast rate, the majority of them are orbiting red dwarf stars so the possibility for sustaining life is slim. But this new system involving KOI-456.04 is quite promising as it is less than twice the size of Earth and its sun is very similar to ours. In fact, based on observations conducted by the Kepler Space Telescope between 2009 and 2013, it has been determined that Kepler-160 has a surface temperature of 9,392 degrees Fahrenheit (5,200 degrees Celsius). KOI-456.04 even orbits its star at approximately the same distance that Earth orbits our sun which means that it receives around the same amount of energy from its star that we get.
It takes KOI-456.04 a total of 378 days to orbit its star (compared to 365 days for Earth to orbit our sun). This also means that it resides in the habitable zone which could indicate that liquid water may be present on the planet. And if it has an atmosphere similar to Earth’s, the surface temperature could be around 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) which would be a good temperature for life to survive.
René Heller, who is the lead author of the study, said in a statement, “KOI-456.01 is relatively large compared to many other planets that are considered potentially habitable. But it’s the combination of this less-than-double the size of the Earth planet and its solar type host star that make it so special and familiar.”
KOI-456.04 isn’t the first planet that astronomers found orbiting Kepler-160 – they previously discovered Kepler-160 b and Kepler-160 c. And there could possibly be more. “Our analysis suggests that Kepler-160 is orbited not by two but by a total of four planets,” Heller noted.
Kepler-160 b and Kepler-160 c are both bigger than Earth and they orbit their star at a much closer proximity which indicates that there probably isn’t life on those planets. And since the orbit of Kepler-160 c is distorted, some scientists believe that there is another planet hiding somewhere behind the star.
This “mirror image” of Earth and our sun over 3,000 light-years away is pretty exciting news. Now scientists need to analyze KOI-456.04 further to find out if it has any liquid water and/or signs of life.