Far Out

New Habitable Planets Discovered

David A. Aguilar/Center for Astrophysics

The newly discovered planets named Kepler-62e and -f are super-Earths in the habitable zone of a distant sun-like star. The largest planet in the image, Kepler-62f, is farthest from its star and covered by ice. Kepler-62e, in the foreground, is nearer to its star and covered by dense clouds. Closer in orbits a Neptune-size ice giant with another small planet transiting its star. Both habitable-zone planets may be capable of supporting life. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Does this mean we can start packing our bags? NASA astronomers have discovered two planets with ideal conditions for life—that is, they're just the right size and just the right distance from their star. Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f, fraternal twin planets discovered through NASA’s Kepler telescope, are the most likely candidates for habitable planets that scientists have discovered so far. Kepler-62e is likened to a warm Hawaiian world, and Kepler-62f is similar to Alaska's climate, according to the journal Science, where the discoveries were published Thursday. A third planet, which orbits the star Kepler-69, was also found in the habitable zone of its star. Only catch is the closest planet is 1,200 light-years away, meaning we're unlikely to phone home anytime soon.