A new planet, about the size of the moon, has been discovered about 210 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. That’s about big enough for you and a few of your close friends. Dubbed Kepler-37b, the diminutive rock is actually part of a new planetary system centered around a star similar to our sun.
The discovery is part of a larger mission to find Earth-size planets “in or near the habitable zone,” NASA said, where water might exist. Thus, LIFE. Kepler-37b, though, actually can’t support life as we know it because it doesn’t have an atmosphere—other neighboring planets are “inhospitable.” So, bummer to that. NASA believes the planet is “rocky in composition.”
The significance of the find is astronomers’s ability to actually spot such small planets. Initially, researchers discovered giant exoplanets. But as technology has advanced, we’re now capable of discovering planets much smaller in size.
“Even Kepler can only detect such a tiny world around the brightest stars it observes,” said Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Center. “The fact that we’ve discovered tiny Kepler-37b suggests such little planets are common, and more planetary wonders await as we continue to gather and analyze additional data.”
So it’s a planet, and it’s small, but it can’t support life. No big. The fact, though, that researchers are capable of spotting planets of such size so far away is a feat in of itself. And might one day help us discover more worlds similar to ours. Maybe one just like ours—a mirror planet with another you.