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Astronomers, including Penn State Behrend alumnus, discover five new planets

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A NASA-led team of astronomers has discovered five new planets, two of which are a habitable distance from their star.

“It’s the system that most resembles the Earth’s,” said Justin R. Crepp, assistant professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame and a 2003 alumnus of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “These are the smallest planets we have found so far in a habitable zone.”

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Notre Dame astrophysicist discovers planets similar to Earth

Justin Crepp

Researchers for the first time have identified Earth-sized planets within the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Images of the star taken by University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp rule out alternative explanations of the data, confirming that five planets orbit Kepler-62, with two located in the habitable zone. The results were published in Science magazine today.

“A five-planet system with planets of 1.41 and 1.61 Earth-radii in the habitable zone of a K2V star has been detected with the Kepler spacecraft and validated with high statistical confidence,” the paper reports. Those two, named Kepler-62 e and f, are the outermost of the five observed planets and receive a solar flux from the star similar to that received from the Sun by Venus and Mars. Their size suggests that they are either rocky, like Earth, or composed mostly of solid water.

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