Earth’s mysterious doomed twin has been found, but unfortunately, the planet doesn’t have long to live in the grand scope of space and time; within a mere three billion years, it will be torn apart. Kepler-78b is almost exactly like Earth, save for a few differences and one in particular that keeps the alien planet from being able to host life. It was the Kepler telescope that located the rock and iron-based orb along with its sun. It’s larger than Earth and heavier, but other than that it’s very similar to our planet except for one major problem that makes it uninhabitable: it’s only 1 million miles away from its sun. This means it cycles through an entire year in just eight and half hours.
Scientists are nearly beside themselves trying to figure out this mysterious planet which is doomed to burn up to a crispy ember in the near future. They have no explanation for how the planet got here or how it formed in the first place.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics scientist David Latham says, “This planet is a complete mystery. We don’t know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it’s not going to last forever.”
Researcher Dimitar Sasselov agrees, saying, “It couldn’t have formed in place because you can’t form a planet inside a star. It couldn’t have formed further out and migrated inward, because it would have migrated all the way into the star. This planet is an enigma.”
What are Extrasolar Planets?
Earth’s mysterious doomed twin is what is known as an extrasolar planet-that is, a planet that sits on the outside of the solar system. These types of planets are also known as exoplanets. Kepler 78b is such a planet, and it joins a body of approximately one thousand additional planets that have been categorized in this way. The first early indications that these types of planets might exist were catalogued in the 1980s while the first confirmed finding of an exoplanet happened in 1995.
According to researcher Michael Perryman, who authored a paper called The Exoplanet Handbook, there has been very rapid growth in the field of discovering exoplanets. He says the significance of such research is that it will quickly pave the way to additional important findings, explaining, “Developments have been so rapid over the last few years that many signiﬁcant developments, and many new surprises, can be predicted with conﬁdence.”
Why is Kepler 78b Important?
Some scientists feel that that major discoveries, such as Kepler 78b, could potentially lead to eventually uncovering life on other planets. Kepler 78b is important because it gives scientists tantalizing clues about the possible existence of additional extrasolar planets which could reside in a habitable region of space. This gives rise to the idea that there could be many other specifically Earth-like planets which are conducive to life.
The discovery of the planet is also a first in the field of astronomy; a planet made of rock and iron that is nearly the same size as Earth has never before been found. Speaking about being able to measure the exact size of the planet, University of Birmingham researcher Bill Chaplin said, “This is a very important result, and goes to the question of how common planets like our own are in the galaxy. Getting a good estimate of the size of the planet and a good estimate of the mass – is still very rare.” The planet’s mysterious nature also makes it quite unique as scientists are baffled about how it came to be.
Earth’s mysterious doomed twin has been found, but its blazing hot temperatures make the rocky orb unable to host life. Could there be hundreds, thousands or even millions of similar planets that might be hospitable to living things?
By: Rebecca Savastio