Astronomers have discovered an exoplanet that closely resembles the Earth, and the star it orbits resembles our Sun too. It's as if they were looking in a mirror at our own solar system, according to scientists themselves.
The exoplanet, called KOI-456.01, could easily be Earth 2.0, but researchers are yet to find out if it can support life. But a Max Planck Society press release says that it's a strong candidate, so much that they explicitly call it a "mirror image" of our Earth and Sun.
The newly discovered Earth-like planet orbits a star called Kepler-160, which is so far from our solar system -- 3,000 lightyears to be exact. But unlike other stars that have with planets similar to Earth, Kepler-160 gives off light in the visible spectrum instead of infrared light -- which is a good thing if we're looking for other habitable planets.
Of course, much is yet to be learned about KOI-456.01. Calling an exoplanet "Earth-like" refers more to its size than its habitability. But still, the Kepler-160 system appears strikingly similar to our own.
"The full picture of habitability, however, involves a look at the qualities of the star too," Max Planck researcher René Heller said in the release.
Most exoplanets described by astronomers as Earth-like are part of a solar system that has red dwarf stars, which are prone to flare-ups that make its planets uninhabitable. The Kepler-160 star, however, resembles our own sun in size and surface temperature.
Other exoplanets orbiting Kepler-160 have been discovered too hot to be habitable, according to researchers. KOI-456.01 was discovered when trying to figure out some quirks in the orbit of one of those planets. The team now suspects there are four planets in the system.
But hold your horses -- don't get all excited about getting there soon. Kepler-160 is too far to visit, and we don't even have a rough idea of what its atmosphere is made of. It's also possible that the exoplanet is merely a systematic measurement error or a statistical fluke instead of being ana actual planet, though the team estimates there's an 85% it is a genuine planet.
Anyhow, the team is looking forward to making further studies about the Earth-like exoplanet, perhaps by way of the ESA's Plato mission. The current state of technology isn't advanced enough for humans to go anywhere near it, so for now, let's continue our enthusiasm for space research.