KEY POINTS

  • Astronomers discovered a star system that might have a habitable exoplanet
  • KOI-456.04 and its star Kepler-160 are like the Earth and its Sun
  • The exoplanet orbits within its host star's Goldilocks Zone

A team of astronomers recently came across a star system that closely resembles the Earth and the Sun. Due to the status of the system, the astronomers believe that its Earth-like exoplanet might be habitable.

The discovery was made by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. They presented their findings in a new study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The astronomers identified the exoplanet in the system as KOI-456.04. Based on their observations, the exoplanet is about less than twice the size of Earth. Despite the difference in size, the astronomers referred to KOI-456.04 as a mirror image of Earth because it also orbits a Sun-like star.

According to their findings, KOI-456.04 orbits its host star, which has been identified as Kepler-160, within the Goldilocks Zone. This is a region that’s not too far and not too close to the star.

As a result, planets that orbit within a star’s Goldilocks Zone often have the right environmental conditions to support the presence of liquid water, which is one of the characteristics of a potentially habitable exoplanet.

The researchers noted that KOI-456.04’s distance from Kepler-160 is comparable to that of the Earth and the Sun.

“The surface conditions on KOI-456.04 could be similar to those known on Earth, provided its atmosphere is not too massive and non-Earth-like,” the astronomers explained in a statement. “The amount of light received from its host star is about 93 percent of the sunlight received on Earth.”

Although the astronomers were already able to gather valuable information regarding KOI-456.04, they believe that observations should still be conducted on the exoplanet and its host star.

According to the astronomers, there’s a chance that KOI-456.04 might just be the result of a technical issue. It might also not be able to meet the requirements in order to be considered as a planet.

“It cannot currently be ruled out completely that KOI-456.04 is, in fact, a statistical fluke or a systematic measurement error instead of a genuine planet,” they stated. “The team estimates the chances of a planetary nature of KOI-456.04 to be about 85 percent pro planet. Obtaining a formal planetary status requires 99 percent.”

51 Pegasi b, seen here in an artist's impression, was the first exoplanet discovered 24 years ago 51 Pegasi b, seen here in an artist's impression, was the first exoplanet discovered 24 years ago Photo: EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY / NICK RISINGER