Astronomers believe 2013 may be the year when the first “Earth twin,” or truly Earth-like alien planet, may be spotted.
While astronomers found exoplanets in the last few years that share key characteristics with our own world, a true “alien Earth” has yet to be found, Space.com reported.
“I’m very positive that the first Earth twin will be discovered next year,” Abel Mendez of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo told Space.com (further reading from Space.com here).
Geoff Marcy, a veteran planet hunter at the University of California Berkeley, echoed Mendez’s optimism: ”The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013,”
Mikko Tuomi, of the University of Hertfordshire in England, told SPACE.com there are about 200 billion stars that host at least 50 billion planets.
“Assuming that 1:10,000 are similar to the Earth would give us 5,000,000 such planets,” Tuomi said.
Tuomi had led teams reporting the discovery of several potentially habitable planet candidates this year, including an exoplanet orbiting the star Tau Ceti just 11.9 light-years from Earth.
“So I would say we are talking about at least thousands of such planets,” Tuomi said.
Both Mendez and Marcy believe the find will be made with the help of the National Aeronautics and the Kepler Space Telescope.