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Space Scientists: First 'Alien Earth' Expected to be Spotted in 2013

Scientists: First 'Alien Earth' Expected to be Spotted in 2013

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First Posted: Dec 31, 2012 03:10 PM EST
ESA/Hubble, NASA

The first truly Earth-like alien planet is likely to be spotted next year, an epic discovery that would cause humanity to reassess its place in the universe, according to reports.

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"I'm very positive that the first Earth twin will be discovered next year," says Abel Mendez, of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, according to NBC News.

And he's not the only one optimistic about the upcoming year. "The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013," says Geoff Marcy, planet hunter at the University of California, Berkeley.

Astronomers discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star in 1995. Since then, they have spotted more than 800 worlds beyond our own solar system, and many more candidates await confirmation by follow-up observations. 

"The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013," said Geoff Marcy, a veteran planet hunter at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Kepler team.

The Kepler team and other research groups have detected several other worlds like that one (which is known as Kepler-22b), bringing the current tally of potentially habitable exoplanets to nine by Mendez' reckoning.

An instrument called HARPS (short for High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) is also a top contender, having already spotted a number of potentially habitable worlds. HARPS, which sits on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope in Chile, allows researchers to detect the tiny gravitational wobbles that orbiting planets induce in their parent stars.

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