A Potentially Habitable Planet

Kepler-62 f

Kepler-62 f

Recently, the Kepler-62 and Kepler-69 systems were made public. The first of these is quite interesting, with a Mars-sized planet sandwiched between two super-Earths in short period orbits, with two super-Earth-sized planets in or near the habitable zone further out.

A 1.6 Earth-radius planet, Kepler-62 e, is in the inner edge of the habitable zone. It’s impossible to be sure yet but it’s radius implies it could have a substantial amount of volatiles such as water. The planet may have a thick ocean layer going so deep that the pressure results in an ice layer between the liquid water layer and the rock layer, much as in Neptune-type planets.

Securely in the habitable zone, Kepler-62 f is a 1.4 Earth-radius planet. It gets about as much insolation from its star as Mars does from the sun. With a much larger radius and surely higher mass, it probably has a thicker atmosphere and so it all works out to where Kepler-62 f could very well be a habitable world.

The presence of multiple super-Earths inward of the f planet implies there has been some migration in the system, and it’s therefore possible that the f planet formed beyond the ice line and acquired a significant amount of volatiles. It’s possible Kepler-62f represents an ocean planet. Or for a slightly higher rock/water fraction, it could have continents and surface life on dry land. With what we know now, it is completely impossible to say.

Still, the fact that such a world has been found is greatly encouraging. It is by far the most promising habitable planet candidate.

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One thought on “A Potentially Habitable Planet

  1. 2013 Review | Exoplanet Musings January 1, 2014 at 9:07 am Reply

    […] habitable zone of Kepler-69, and two habitable planet candidates at Kepler-62, which was covered here. HARPS found a nice system of planets around the M dwarf GJ 163. One of the planets is somewhat […]

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