Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles say that a planet located 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra could sustain life. The planet in question is named Kepler-62f, a rocky exoplanet estimated to be 40 percent bigger than the Earth.
According to the study’s lead author Aomawa Shields from UCLA, Kepler-62f, found in 2013, could have liquid oceans thanks to the atmospheric conditions that keep it warm. The study, published on May 13 in the journal Astrobiology, says the exoplanet’s atmosphere is 12 times thicker than that of Earth’s.
Kepler-62 also contains 2,500 times more atmospheric carbon dioxide than Earth, which maintains the ocean’s liquid state and keeps the planet from completely freezing. Its distance from its star is greater than our own planet’s distance from the sun.
It is part of a planetary system that consists of five planets orbiting a star, which is actually smaller and has a lower temperature than the sun. Aside from this, not much is known about Kepler-62f’s other composition or its orbital shape yet.
The researchers believe that Kepler-62f is habitable the whole year round. However, if the team’s estimations turn out wrong and the exoplanet only contains the same levels of carbon dioxide as the Earth, they think that its orbital configuration still causes its ice sheets to melt, allowing the planet capable of sustaining life.
Still, no one knows if life really exists on an exoplanet, says Shields. Nevertheless, the study lead author believes that finding life on another planet may soon be possible.
As of now, there are more than 2,300 exoplanets that have been discovered. About several thousand of these are thought to be capable of supporting life but only 24 are known to be within the habitable zone, which means that their distance from their star keeps them warm enough to create liquid water.