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Worlds without end: Astronomers have confirmed from Kepler data the existence of 8 new exoplanets, all capable of having liquid water on their surface, with two more like Earth than any previous discovery.
These findings nearly double the number of known planets in the habitable zone, but researchers are especially excited about two of the new exoplanets: Their size, location, and star type means they could be rocky planets like Earth — which means they could have evolved life as we recognize it.
One of the planets, Kepler-438b, is only 12 percent bigger than Earth in diameter. That means it’s quite likely a rocky planet. Scientists have given it a 70 percent chance. Kepler-442b is a bit bigger at around 33 percent larger than Earth, but still has a 60 percent chance of being rocky.
But while 438b hits the sweet spot in size, 442b has it beat when it comes to distance from the sun. Both planets orbit a small red dwarf star, cooler than Earth’s Sun, but they also orbit more closely. 438b gets 40 percent more light than Earth, which means it has around a 70 percent chance of being able to hold liquid water. But with 66 percent as much light as our own planet, 442b has a 97 percent chance of being in the habitable zone.