Astronomers at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory announced on Wednesday the discovery of a new exoplanet close to the size of Earth.
Kepler-21b, as it has been named, is about 352 light years away from us which, in astronomical terms, essentially makes it a next door neighbor to planet Earth. While it may share similarities with Earth in terms of size, there is just about no chance life could exist on the planet.
The Earth-like planet orbits so close to its parent star that astronomers estimate the temperatures on the planet likely exceed 2,960 Fahrenheit (1,627 Celsius), which is hot enough to melt iron.
It may not be capable of harboring life, but scientists are still excited by the discovery of Kepler-21b. Thousands of alien planets have been discovered over the past 10 years, but none of them were quite as small, or quite as Earth-like, as Kepler-21b. The planet has a mass 10 times that of Earth’s, but its radius is only 1.6 times larger.
“Until a few years ago, the smallest extra-solar planet that we had discovered was the size of Jupiter or Saturn, which are about ten times bigger than the Earth,” Katy Garmany, the Deputy Press Officer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, told Huffington Post. “Now we’re getting down to something almost the size of the Earth, showing that we have the technology to find the earth-size planets.”