Astronomers have spotted an Earth-like planet that is a hotter and puffier version circling a distant star.
The strange exoplanet candidate KOI-314c is located about 200 light-years away and has roughly the same mass as Earth, but it’s extremely thick atmosphere makes the Earth-like planet about 60 percent larger than our home planet, scientists say.
“This planet might have the same mass as Earth, but it is certainly not Earth-like,” study lead author David Kipping, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), said in a statement. “It proves that there is no clear dividing line between rocky worlds like Earth and fluffier planets like water worlds or gas giants.”
Kipping first announced the discovery of KOI-314c, on Jan. 6at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington. The discovery was made using observations by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Kepler was designed to spot exoplanets by noticing the telltale brightness dips they cause when crossing the face of, or transiting, their host stars’ faces from the telescopes perspective per Fox News. KOI-314c is the first transiting Earth-mass planet ever to be found and is the lightest alien planet to have both its mass and size measured, researchers said.
The discovery team approximates KOI-314c’s surface temperature to be 220 degrees Fahrenheit; meaning is most likely too hot to support life as we know it. The planet orbits around its parent red dwarf star every 23 days.
KOI-314c is likely surrounded by a hydrogen-helium atmosphere hundreds of miles thick, researchers said. The atmosphere may have even been thicker at one point in time, with much of it boiled off into space over the eons by the red dwarf’s radiation.
KOI-314c has a sister planet called KOI-314b, which completes one orbit every 13 days. The study team measured how the planet’s gravity affects the movement of its neighbor world in order to calculate the mass of KOI-314c.