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Earthlike planet: Scientists amazed after finding planet that could support life

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The recent discovery of an Earthlike planet, called Kepler-186f, has sent the scientific community into a frenzy because researchers say that the planet is a near twin of Earth that can hold water and could be habitable, CNN reported today. NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope spotted the Earthlike planet in the Goldilocks zone, where it's not too hot and not too cold for life, The Associated Press said.

Regarding the extraordinary find, Elisa Quintana, of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute at NASA, gave the following statement:"This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star. Finding such planets is a primary goal of the Kepler space telescope."

"This discovery not only proves the existence of worlds that might be similar to our own but will undoubtedly shape future investigations of exoplanets that could have terrestrial surface environments," NASA said during an announcement today.

The rocky planet lies outside of our solar system, about 500 light-years from Earth, and the star it orbits is said to be half the size of our Sun. Scientists aren't entirely sure if the Earthlike planet has an atmosphere or not, but if it does, it most likely contains a large amount of carbon dioxide, experts said.

For years, humans have had the necessary technology to observe the cosmos beyond our solar system. In just 20 years, mankind has confirmed the existence of approximately 1,800 exoplanets (celestial objects outside our Solar System), of which about 20 are located in the so-called habitable zone. This means that they orbit their star at a distance that would allow them to theoretically hold oceans, lakes or rivers as they are neither as close nor as far from their stars as worlds with infernal temperatures or icy planets would be. And if these planets have water, astrophysicists argue that they could potentially have or have had some kind of life.

Most of these worlds have been detected in the last five years, thanks to NASA's Kepler telescope, which was launched in March 2009. Most are larger than Earth, as they are easier to detect. Of all the planets that have been found so far, researchers say that this Earthlike planet is the one most similar to Earth. The discovery is so special that NASA arranged a press conference Thursday to explain this great find.

"It's a big deal," astrophysicist Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told SPACE.com. "It's definitely a good candidate for life." The Earthlike planet discovery was published online Thursday in the journal Science.

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