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Study says Earth-like planet Kepler-62f could sustain life

A new study introduces a technique for determining the likelihood of rocky exoplanets being able to sustain life.

A new study out of UCLA shows that one of the Kepler space telescope’s discoveries may be suitable for sustaining life.

Nature World News reports that Kepler-62f, an apparently rocky planet lying 1,200 light years away from Earth, shows evidence of being able to sustain an ocean and atmosphere.

“We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water,” Aomawa Shields of the University of California said in a statement. “This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet.”

NASA’s Kepler mission first identified Kepler-62f in 2013.  The planet is about 40 percent larger than Earth and orbits a star that is smaller than the Sun.  The new study looked at additional features of the planet, such as its orbit shape and likely atmospheric and surface compositions.

The researchers used models to determine whether various scenarios regarding Kepler-62f’s orbit and climate would allow it to be habitable.  The team found that Kepler-62f could harbor a wide range of atmospheric and orbital possibilities and still be able to sustain Earth-like life throughout its year.

The team notes that the technique of combining models to study rocky exoplanets could be applied to space bodies closer to Earth.

“This will help us understand how likely certain planets are to be habitable over a wide range of factors, for which we don’t yet have data from telescopes,” Shields said. “And it will allow us to generate a prioritized list of targets to follow up on more closely with the next generation of telescopes that can look for the atmospheric fingerprints of life on another world.”

Of the more than 2,300 exoplanets that have been discovered to date, only a couple dozen have been observed to orbit in their star’s “habitable zone,” which would allow for liquid water to exist on the surface.

The study was published in the journal Astrobiology.