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Astronomers say they have discovered a planet twice the size of Earth and within a zone that could allow liquid water to exist on its surface. The discovery comes from data from NASA's Kepler space telescope that ran out of fuel in October last year.

Astronomers have described its size as unusual for an exoplanet, the term for a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system. Few planets orbiting near their stars are more than 1.5 times larger than Earth, but it is estimated that K2-288Bb is approximately 1.9 times the size of our planet.

According to NASA, the planet is half the size of Neptune and can be rich in gas, although it is possible that it is rocky. K2-288Bb, located in the direction of the constellation Taurus, is about 226 light-years away from us. This new planet, however, orbits the smaller of two cold stars in the star system called K2-288.

Kepler, who died from a lack of fuel, discovered more than 2,600 confirmed planets, of which about 50 can be the same size and temperature as Earth. The telescope data also helped scientists determine whether a planet has a solid surface, such as Earth, or a gaseous one, such as Jupiter.

However, Kepler is no longer in search of planets, NASA hopes a new space telescope will help in the quest: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which began its two-year mission in April last year. Scientists said the new satellite will examine 200,000 nearby stars in search of rocky planets the size of Earth.

"We have learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the nearest stars," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division. [ ScienceAlert ]
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Earth-like Planets

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