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Scientists have found a planet that is double the size of our planet, and there's a possibility that it allows liquid water to exist on its surface. NASA's Kepler space telescope which shut operations in October 2018, was the one to make these findings.
Dubbed +K2-288Bb, the new planet is located within its star's habitable zone, which hints at a possibility of liquid water. Its size is different from other exoplanets that revolve around a star outside our solar system. Few planets that orbit close to their stars are more than 1.5 times as large as Earth, yet K2-288Bb is said to be around 1.9 times bigger than the size of our planet.
"It's a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon," the lead author of a paper on the discovery, Adina Feinstein said in a NASA news release.
NASA said that the exoplanet is half the size of Neptune and could be filled with a lot of gases, though it could be rocky instead. K2-288Bb is located in the Taurus constellation and is about 226 light-years away.
Kepler has discovered more than 2,600 confirmed planets, out of which 50 are of the same size and temperature as the Earth. The data sent back by the Kepler helped astronomers determine the surface of the planet. Since Kepler has shut its operations, NASA is hoping that a new space telescope - Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), will take charge of the proceedings. TESS will be examining 200,000 nearby stars as it looks for rocky, Earth-size planets.
"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars," Paul Hertz, the director of NASA's astrophysics division, said in March 2018. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds."