The sweet spot for planets to be habitable for life may be wider than originally thought, according to new research.
In December, NASA announced the first Earth-sized planet, Kepler-22b, some 600 light years away that fits into the habitable zone.
The habitable zone typically means a planet is warm enough to have water, the basis of life, but not hot enough to scorch any potential living creature.
Finding planets that might fit into the habitable zone is one focus for the Kepler mission that since 2009 has found 2,326 planets.
Planets orbiting red dwarf stars may have a habitable zone 10-30 percent further away from the star than previously calculated, according to scientists.
Icy or watery planets orbiting red dwarf stars, unlike our Sun, may be warmer than originally thought, according to research from Manoj Joshi, meteorologist at the University of Reading, U.K. and Robert Haberle, scientist at the NASA Ames Research Centre.
Surface temperatures of planets that orbit these red dwarf stars, and which also have significant ice and snow cover, may be warmer than models and theory have previously suggested, Joshi wrote in an email.
Their results were published Monday in the journal Astrobiology.
The outer edge of the so-called habitable zone - that zone of orbits where you could sustain stable liquid water and hence maybe (and it's a very big maybe!) life- may lie further away than previously thought for red dwarf stars: in other words this research extends the habitable zone for red dwarfs, Joshi wrote.
The results couldn't have come at a better time with the world abuzz over Kepler-22b.
Discoveries like (Kepler22-b) demonstrate what an exciting time it is to be involved with exoplanets research: instruments like Kepler are finding more and more planets all the time, Joshi wrote.
The next step for the research could include estimateing the atmospheres of potential planets. A lot of research has focused on thinking about how the atmospheres of habitable worlds may behave- I think that one potential stage may be to think about oceans as well, Joshi wrote.